Given the ubiquity of accusations of fascism in contemporary political discourse, it’s important we begin our analysis of fascism with a working definition. Fascism is, at its core, one of capitalism's modes of self-preservation in times of deep crisis. It presents itself as an acute intensification of the modes of oppression which capital already upholds to keep itself afloat under liberal regimes e.g. racism, misogyny, queerphobia, etc. It also presents itself as fundamentally class-collaborationist, aiming to ameliorate sharpening class conflict by building some form of national, ethnic, or racial unity.
The central social base of fascism is the petty bourgeoisie -- the class of small business and property owners whose social position is the most precarious under capitalism. Unable to hold their ground against larger capital holders in the free market, the mechanisms of capitalism itself bear their weight upon the petty bourgeoisie, at all times threatening to dispossess and proletarianize them – turning them into wage workers like the rest of us. This is the class which cannot weather the storm of crises (which themselves are also the natural product of capitalism). This is what leads the petty bourgeoisie, at times consciously and at others unconsciously, to double down on the modes of oppression that capital already finds so useful in more tranquil periods.
In the United States today, a wave of reactionary legislation is rolling back abortion rights, banning the teaching of "divisive concepts" like the concept of gender or the US's history of slavery and genocide, forcefully detransitioning trans minors, banning trans women from existing in women's spaces, and banning books from public schools. These bills are by-and-large finding success passing into law in dozens of states. All the while, hate crimes are up, police shootings are up, mass shooters are targeting queer people, and Proud Boys and actual Nazis are turning out en masse to disrupt family-friendly drag events.
While fascism acquired many ideological adherents during the Trump era, much of this is unique to our post-Covid, post-George-Floyd-Rebellion world. The Covid pandemic presented itself as a particularly intense and acute crisis, threatening to ruin at once large swathes of the petty bourgeoisie who could not afford to adapt to the (extremely lax) lockdown measures the way the big capitalists could. Certain large corporations like Microsoft were even able to profit immensely from the pandemic, much to the outrage of the downwardly mobile petty bourgeois. Much of the right's current level of organization derives from the ensuing months of anti-lockdown rallies and protests that the left failed to oppose in any meaningful way. These undisturbed rallies functioned as networking events, serving the greater purpose of developing a petty bourgeois consciousness for itself.
What finally forced these reactionaries back into the shadows was the George Floyd rebellion, a brilliant and ferocious lashing out at the powers that be in acts of righteous anger. Everyone in the US apart from the exceptionally isolated came into direct contact with the rebellion which saw burned buildings, occupations, autonomous zones, and above all a lot of blocked roads. However, despite being the largest protest movement in the US since the Vietnam war, the George Floyd rebellion achieved next to none of its objective goals apart from the immediate demand for conviction of Floyd’s murderers – rates of police brutality against black people have gone up and police funding has continued to skyrocket in America’s cities. A previous CORS piece analyzed the causes of this apparent contradiction.
The failures of the left to build lasting organization out of the enormous outpouring of spontaneous energy that was the George Floyd rebellion are being felt in our inability to mobilize against the current reactionary tide. When Roe V Wade was repealed, there was hardly a flash in the pan with regard to popular resistance. There wasn't any steam at all when it came to opposing racist and transphobic legislation in Ohio.
While the left is aware of the failures of 2020 and can feel them reverberating in the present, many leftists have taken away only the wrong lessons. The most common response to the harsh police crackdowns has been a doubling or even tripling down on safety culture and the paranoia it entails. An atmosphere of fear and distrust has compromised our efficacy through the blind insistence that we can't do something so risky as hold an intersection for fear of police retaliation, and has stunted the left’s growth by its reluctance and even outright refusal to bring new people into the struggle.
One of the most wrong-headed takes I've personally heard from an organizer in regard to 2020 was that there "wasn't enough decentralized action." It cannot be stressed enough that the George Floyd rebellion saw only decentralized action. It cannot be proclaimed loud enough that we need more connections amongst ourselves, more coordinated action, not less!
Let us dwell no longer on the past, lest we miss what's right in front of us while grasping backward at what could have been. One immediate concern we've been confronted with is fascist violence directed toward queer people, particularly at family-friendly drag events. This presents us with both a duty to directly defend our communities from violence and with an opportunity to bring the masses into political life on the side of the working class.
One advantage we have, and always should have, over the fascists is that their ideas are fundamentally unpopular. While they typically espouse unity around some kind of majority identity like whiteness, Marxist analysis reveals this kind of unity to be a false one, crafted to paper over the material division between the proletariat (working class) and the bourgeoisie (owning class). Such a false unity can only benefit the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, who stand to lose their position of exploiter should the proletariat unite along class lines. Indeed it is the allure of this stabilizing force which imbues the threatened petty bourgeoisie with an essential fascism. It is in the interests of the working class as a whole (who constitute the numerical majority of people by far, as capitalism necessitates) to do away with the entire system of exploitation.
The fascists' petty bourgeois class basis, however, does give them one particular advantage: for as long as the working class does not hold supreme power over society, fascists will always have a greater capacity to operate in pseudo-militaristic cells. They simply have more resources to hoard weaponry, and more time to practice marching drills, coordinate silly little outfits, and bus their people great distances.
Given our respective advantages and disadvantages, it is clear that we must play the game that we're well-equipped to beat them at: mass politics. It's been proven that in urban centers like Columbus, Ohio where working class populations are large, we're able to match the numbers of fascists coming from over state lines even when we've been actively demobilized. It's also been shown that we're unable to get those same numbers out deep into suburbs like Wadsworth, Ohio despite concentrated efforts to mobilize. Drawing from the lessons learned, I propose a rough guide to antifascism as oriented toward mass politics.
When presented with events that require protection from imminent fascist disruption, we must first attempt to make connections with any local organizers who may be sympathetic to our cause. If the event is being held in a suburb, it is always wise to look to the nearest urban centers for support. It's important to remember that political purity is no requirement for showing up the fash, and that with any luck we will end up winning more of the masses to the cause of the working class through our connections.
We must coordinate as large of a propaganda campaign as is feasible. Remembering that fascism is unpopular is key: the wider we spread the word, the better our turnout. Social media posts, flyering campaigns around the urban centers, and speaking to others at progressive protests or events are the easiest ways for us to pull the masses into our work.
During the course of the event we've set out to defend, we must solidify our existing connections with other organizers, and forge new connections with people who are unaffiliated or who we otherwise haven't had contact with. Exchanging fliers, social media info, or contact info is vital.
After the day of the event, we must maintain our connections and utilize them in the course of further organizing. A few good connections to organizers in a locality can prove invaluable in the defense of future events, and even in the organizing of proactive rallies and protests toward working class ends.
During the long-term course of our organizing, we must work to convince those in our sphere of influence of the necessity of a mass-orientation toward antifascism. We must also work to convince them of our proletarian revolutionary line which will be explained below.
It may sound like a silly question, but the political problem is quite serious. If our goal as antifascists is to eradicate fascism, what is it that we're trying to create? As demonstrated above, we cannot simply return to liberal capitalism, as the very machinations of capital inch us toward fascism. Furthermore, we will have failed in every way that matters if our work toward ending the acute intensification of oppression that is fascism means returning to a mundane and "tolerable" level of the same oppression.
We must not endeavor to oil the machine of exploitation and oppression so that it might operate more smoothly, for that is the work of our political enemies be they fascists or capitalists. We must instead aim to destroy the machine itself, to put an end to exploitation and oppression in the revolutionary overthrow of this society. We must tirelessly organize to invert the oppressive relation between the capitalist and the worker by elevating the proletariat to the place of ruling class, so that we may destroy every system of ownership and servitude, abolish class once and for all, and usher in a new age of radical inclusion and cooperation. In the immortal words of Rosa Luxemburg: it is Socialism or Barbarism!