This week In fascism: What is it, anyway?
Educating the masses on the need-to-know issues
The Carillon humbly presents the debut of a new column in op-ed and news: “This Week In Fascism.” Horrible as it is that this is such an easy topic to write, and depressing as it is that it will likely be applicable each week, keeping an eye on alt-right ideology is one way of making sure we do not fall into apathy or complacency at the state of the world. This column will aim to give the reader a week-in-review of political actions and assertions that raise serious red flags, focusing on the Canadian state and the land it occupies, but extending to the rest of the world as necessary. This column will also make a point to offer counter-actions, education, and organizing tactics we can use to push against fascism, because the name of the game is power through knowledge and not hopeless doom and gloom.
Before this column launches, though, an obvious question must be addressed: what is fascism? The cumulative knowledge of our old friend Wikipedia describes fascism as “a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy.” So, that’s super wordy, but basically fascism is politically far right, nationalist, repressive, and hierarchical. That might be a good starting point, but besides being pretty hard to break down, this definition also leaves out the real-life, material context that should accompany our understandings of politics.
The Laurier Students’ Public Research Group, or LSPIRG, passed a zine (a kind of handmade, cheaply distributed publication) onto our own Regina Public Interest Research Group that more thoroughly explains fascism in contexts relevant to us in 2019. It’s called “Fascism and the Rise of the Alt-Right: Tactics for Organizing with LSPIRG.” LSPIRG acknowledges that fascism is very complex, and we’re often “too close to [it] in order to fully grasp what it is,” but they break it into a few key points.
The centrepiece of fascism in a state is “authoritarian nationalism,” which involves the idea that one’s country is superior to all others, and therefore has the right to restrict freedoms. This is “generally attached to aggressive racism, conservative traditionalism (or, wanting to go back to the ‘good old days’), anti-liberalism, anti-communism, and a strong expansionist foreign policy.”
LSPIRG says that we most commonly associate this with the Nazi party in Germany, and this is a correct association. However, it’s important to remember that the end of WWII and the liberation of Nazi camps was not the end of fascism or fascist organization, nor does fascism only apply to the Holocaust. In fact, assuming that we will be able to immediately recognize fascism the instant we see it can leave us unaware of “fascist creep,” the tendency for fascist rhetoric and ideals to “creep into mainstream discourse.” This comes from “Against the Fascist Creep” by Alexander Reid Ross.
For example, LSPIRG specifically mentions “humour (more recently, memes), symbols . . . and the offering of platforms and “air time” for fascists” as examples of fascist creep. Richard Spencer, who himself became a meme when he was silenced mid-speech with a punch, was at the time trying to popularize “pepe the frog” as a symbol of the alt-right. Pepe seems harmless, even humorous – but when that connection is made, he can become a way for neo-Nazis to identify each other and organize. More recently, when Maxime Bernier was allowed in the political debate, the PPC’s racist rhetoric was allowed to “creep” onto a national stage.
Of course, we also have literal, self-identified Nazis living and working in Canada. We have very clear white nationalist terrorist attacks targeting synagogues and mosques. Even though it’s somehow hard for people to condemn the most obvious of fascist actions, a lot of them are easy to spot. But this column will be covering things classified as “fascist creep” or even “alt-lite” – associated with the alt-right, but claiming moderation, according to LSPIRG – as well as the obvious things.
Future versions of this column will focus on specific events or trends to keep an eye on and organize against in our backyards, but for now, here are some general ways to resist fascism that LPIRG recommends: counter-protests or demonstrations against alt-right gatherings, spreading awareness about how to spot fascism, speaking up in person or online when you hear ultra-conservative or ultranationalist talking points, and even checking in with your friends who engage in any social organizing. More information can also be gathered from RPIRG, with lots of resources (and even grants!) available to do organizing of your own.
Until another week, stay connected and stay hopeful.