Fascism is always a danger under capitalism, with its frequent crises and endemic white supremacy, but the phony “resistance” is only concerned about electing Democrats.
With last weekend’s election of Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, white men’s parties now lead governments that preside over the two largest concentrations of Black people outside Africa. Both Bolsonaro and Donald Trump are widely described as fascists–which is correct. But it does not follow that everyone who calls such men “fascists” is a friend of Black and other oppressed people and, therefore, worthy allies in a “united front” of “resistance.”
Who are the fascists, and where do they come from? More precisely, what are they defending?
It is generally understood among the Left that fascists are the political products of capitalism in crisis, reactionaries that promise to restore order by purging the society of unwanted peoples and ideologies. Their targets depend on the particularities of the society in crisis: in Germany, it was the Jews and the Bolsheviks, enemies that Hitler conflated as one and the same. In the post-Reconstruction southern region of the United States, whites imposed the world’s first totally racially regimented society, one that would serve as a model and inspiration for emerging fascists for generations to come. The Jim Crow order was heralded as a new day for the white working man, who would no longer have to compete with Black labor–enslaved or free–but instead join in the profits (and priceless white social and political privilege) from Black people’s super-exploitation.
In Latin America, a native-born white elite lorded it over the surviving descendants of the original inhabitants and the millions of slaves imported to the “New World”, by European colonialists–especially to the colossus, Brazil. Although the post-slavery racial order was never as regimented as in the U.S.–indeed, racial ambiguity was encouraged among the dark lower classes, to keep them divided–the people at the top always knew they were “white” (Portuguese), and defended the racial hierarchy with horrific force, when necessary.
The New World and the old were united by globalizing capital as most of the planet was divided between the western European powers, with the fiercely racist U.S. unilaterally declaring a kind of sovereignty (Monroe Doctrine) over the south of the hemisphere, a region where the racial pedigrees of even the elites were suspect to North American eyes–“mongrels,” the white southern politicians called them.
At the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 the industrial capitalist powers divided the world among themselves, with their respective colonial empires reserved for the “home” country’s super-exploitation–globalization made formal. The newly unified German state stepped forward to claim its rightful portion of the spoils–its White Right. In 1898, the United States, which had been represented in Berlin, seized Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines to become a full-fledged imperial power. Not long afterward, President Teddy Roosevelt sailed his “Great White Fleet” around the world to show that the U.S. was not only a great power, but a major defender of white “civilization.”
The U.S. claimed to be late to the colonial game, but had in fact been catapulted to major economic power status on the backs of its super-exploited internal colony of slaves, whose bodies were mortgaged to securities traded throughout the developed capitalist world, as were the deeds to the fields they toiled.
Brazil was the last Latin American country to abolish slavery, in 1888. The elite tried to overwhelm the freed men and women with white immigrants, importing between 70,000 and 80,000 newcomers each year from 1870 to 1930, mainly Portuguese and Italians. Much of the same attempts at whitening the population occurred elsewhere in Latin America, as elites tried frantically to certify their membership in the global white club.
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, an arch racist who segregated the federal civil service and praised the Klan-loving film “Birth of a Nation” as “writing history with lightning,” sought to perfect the post-World War One international order by backing formation of a League of Nations. But Wilson’s rhetoric on people’s rights to “self-determination” was meant for white people only. Wilson gave no encouragement to the colonized people of Africa, Asia and the Americas; instead, he invaded and occupied Haiti and the Dominican Republic–as was his right, as leader of a Great White Nation.
This global white ruling structure was built on a doctrine of white supremacy–or, as Marxists correctly maintain, the ideology of white supremacy evolved to justify the crimes of the western European colonizers and settlers against the rest of the world. Either way, that ideology was supreme on the planet–a mature world system–when fascists started calling themselves by that name, most notably in post-World War One Italy and Germany. Mussolini and Hitler wanted nothing less for their nations than what Britain and France had long enjoyed: a free hand in subjugating the “lesser races” of the world–a white privilege that the U.S. had arrogated to itself, internally, and against its neighbors, at whim.
In a sense, the western Europeans and their settler states had forged an ideology of white “exceptionalism” over the centuries since the piratical European breakout of 1492. The Haitian Revolution of 1804 was a challenge to the white world order of a magnitude that would not be exceeded until 1917, with the Russian revolutionary declaration of the rights of all peoples to “free self-determination, including secession and formation of a separate state.” The Soviet stance was seen as a declaration of war, not just on capitalism, but on white people’s “exceptional” right to supremacy over darker peoples–a revolutionary idea whose time would not come for most of the colonized peoples of Africa, Asia and the Caribbean for two generations.
Fascism would consume Europe, as Hitler pursued his super-white Aryan nation dream, a genocidal ambition derived directly from the centuries-long planetary colonization project of Britain, France, the Dutch, Spain, Portugal and other globe-trotting thieves.
White supremacy is deeply embedded in Euro-settler culture. It provides an implicit, if not explicit, explanation for Euro-American dominance in the world, and an excuse for the tens of millions slaughtered in reaching that zenith. The histories of Euro-American world conquest and capitalism are entwined–that is, the history of capitalism begins in the holds of slave ships. It is impossible to separate these historical developments.
It is also near impossible to isolate “fascists” as if they are some peculiar and discreet strain of “ism.” They are able to garner mass followings when the prevailing order is threatened–and in the Euro-American world (including, of course, Latin America), that order is inherently white supremacist and capitalist.
Fascists always win power with the assent of strong sections of the ruling class, since those are the social forces that have the biggest stake in the old order. Such was the case with Hitler, Mussolini and, yes, Trump and Bolsonaro. Therefore, the question is not, What do we do about the miscreants Trump and Bolsonaro, but, How do we defeat this system–the rule of capital, buttressed and justified by white supremacy–and those elements of the ruling class and their minions that have empowered these ugly fascists? That means Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. and a host of political parties and business enterprises in Brazil. It means indicting the oligarchs at the top of late stage global capitalism and their protector, U.S. imperialism, which confronts growing resistance, worldwide.
Washington began intervening to get rid of the Workers Party government in Brazil, years ago. In other words, the U.S. government was fomenting fascism in Brazil (again) long before Trump got his hands on the levers of power. Bolsonaro and Trump did not march into their capital cities at the head of goose-stepping mobs, overrunning the old order. They came to save the old order–or, at least, to salvage the white supremacist aspects of it, which is what their grassroots followers care about. The entire ruling class was rewarded with trillions in tax breaks and deregulation, once Trump was in office. All of the capitalist vultures in Brazil can expect the same–while the nation’s Black population braces for a reign of police and military terror, with leftists pushed underground or disappeared.
I have no problem labeling Trump a fascist, and Bolsonaro appears to have no problem being called one. My problem is with a phony “resistance” that defines fascism so narrowly that it applies, domestically, only to Donald Trump and his most crazed followers. For Democrats, the fascist label is mere political epithet, a demon-word hurled for election purposes. Even self-styled “progressive” Democrats will not break with a lawless U.S. “exceptionalism” that has killed upwards of 15 million people around the globe since World War Two–six million in the Congo, alone, which makes Uncle Sam (Clinton, Bush, Obama, and now Trump) a bipartisan mass genocidal murderer on a par with Belgian King Leopold. Except that Leopold confined his genocides mainly to the Congo, while the U.S. superpower lays waste to non-white peoples worldwide.
During the whole colonial period, most of the Left in Europe treated Black, brown and yellow lives as if they didn’t matter, all the while claiming to be the vanguard of humanity’s struggle for dignity. Then the mass murdering monster that had been marauding the darker world for centuries, fattening Europe, turned inward to eat Europe alive. Fascism was perceived as a new and singular evil, rather than the logical outcome of capitalism+white supremacy.
In the wake of World War Two, Aimé Césaire, the poet and politician from Martinique, explained that Europe had incubated fascism in its colonies, where millions perished and whole cultures vanished for the sake of capital accumulation. He argued “that they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole of Western, Christian civilization in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack.”
In the postwar U.S., white people couldn’t recognize a fascist without his uniform–which is understandable, since much of the white population were themselves fascist, in that they endorsed a police state and enforced political and social subordination for Black people at home, and supported wars to suppress non-whites’ right to self-determination, abroad. The Black liberation movement of the Sixties provoked a fascist white general response: Black mass incarceration, a system that “oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack,” enmeshing millions of whites in the carceral state as collateral damage in the unceasing war on Blacks. The biggest incarceration state in the world must be, by definition, the world’s biggest police state. If there is a fascist regime on the planet, this must be it–otherwise, the only conclusion is that Black Americans are congenitally criminal, and deserve to be the most imprisoned people on earth.
(In fact, Native Americans, Maoris in New Zealand, and Roma in eastern Europe are locked up in proportions that rival Black U.S. incarceration–as are Blacks in the UK, it has been argued. But this only confirms that white supremacy is an incubator of fascism, worldwide.)
So, where have all the anti-fascists been hiding, the last 50 years, as Black America was methodically tortured, destabilized and dismembered by the State? Did they cry “fascist” when Barack Obama broke all records in deporting undocumented people? Of course not–no fascism there. They denounce Trump’s anti-Muslim tirades, but did they mobilize an anti-war movement to halt Obama’s proxy jihadist war against Syria that has left half a million dead? No, instead they applaud Trump when he bombs Syria and condemn Russia for defending a sovereign state from unprovoked attack by the U.S. and its allies. Do they care about international law? Never heard of it. They are not upset that the U.S. spent $5 billion to overthrow an elected government and install actual Nazis in power in Ukraine–after which Hillary Clinton had the nerve to call Putin “Hitler.” No, the “resistance” is mad at the Russians for…everything.
Is it disturbing to the “resistance” that Colombia, a CIA-nurtured narco-regime that is the most dangerous place in the world to be a union or peasant organizer, and where millions of Black and indigenous people have been displaced to fatten the profits of U.S. corporations, is about to join NATO? Truth be told, are they really angry about Bolsonaro getting elected in Brazil, except as a talking point to hammer Trump?
Any real resistance to fascism would defend freedom of speech and seek to broaden, rather than further restrict, popular access to media of all kinds. But much of the “resistance” cheers Facebook and Google censorship of material that might “sow division” in U.S. society–including Black Agenda Report–as if conformity with imperialism and institutional white supremacy is a bulwark against fascism.
We at BAR are always ready to join with genuine anti-fascists. But, outside of Black America, which endured the world’s first fascist regime in the Jim Crow South, and continues to suffer under fascism’s second, mass Black carceral incarnation, real anti-fascists are hard to find in the United States. The historical Black consensus on peace and social justice is constantly undermined by the pervasive presence in our communities of the Democratic Party, acting as an agent of its corporate masters. Under the Party’s money-drenched influence, 80 percent of the Congressional Black Caucus voted in 2014 to continue the infamous 1033 Pentagon program that funnels military weaponry, gear and training to local police. And earlier this year, three quarters of the Black lawmakers in the U.S. House supported a bill that made police a protected class. Attacks on cops are to be treated as hate crimes.
Self-determination and socialism are the antidotes to fascism, a social pathology born in the bowels of white supremacist capitalism–the only kind of capitalism that exists in the “West.” (We’ll find out what those Chinese capitalist-roaders are cooking up, in time, but U.S. imperialism is the main danger to humanity in this epoch.) These two topics are always on the agenda at the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations, which holds its annual march on the White House and national conference, this weekend.