Fascism and right Populism


4 Jan , 2020  

In classical fascism, an organization, initially external to the state and strictly hierarchically structured, gained dominance over the state apparatuses through legal seizure of power, only to merge with them in a specific way, thus maintaining the crisis-ridden capitalist system and securing it by force on a new level. Thus, at the beginning of a process of fascisation, the fascist party is still outside the state apparatuses, which it later wants to take over and gradually change, whereby especially the restructured repressive apparatus in the second phase of power integration can even dominate the fascist party, through the mechanisms of the political police, which now has to be placed in its importance before the administration and army. (Poulantzas 1973: 356)

Described by Poulantzas as a specific form of the exceptional state (other forms for him are the military dictatorship and Bonapartism), fascism leads to a reorganization of the state system and to shifts and shifts of power within its repressive, ideological and economic apparatuses, whereby the repressive apparatus becomes dominant, but drastic changes also take place in the other apparatuses, for example when the political police increasingly takes on ideological tasks. (Ibid.: 342) The legal system continues to guarantee the relations of production and ownership in fascism, but beyond that it takes over the direct political function of control and intervention in the class struggles. The law no longer reliably regulates the execution of power by the state apparatuses and access to these apparatuses and their relations to each other; rather, legal arbitrariness prevails, with which the legal system itself is unable to prejudge its own transformation rules.

Here the war machine is implanted in the state as a performative organizational principle and then develops a suicidal tendency through a process of flight and increases in the state, while the political police goes over to practicing terror against the population or against its resistant and oppositional parts, for which the fascist mass party must also be able to mobilize large parts of the population (do the masses want fascism?). The hysterically acting fascist mass party, which has a special function not only in the repressive, but also in the ideological state apparatuses, carries out the permanent mobilization of the popular masses, while at the same time the sharpest form of social exclusion and stockpiling takes place. At the centre of German fascism, from a certain point on, was the extermination of the Jews as a race to be specified, as well as of the Bolshevik producers. Propagandistically, fascism, in contrast to liberalism, brings the concepts of national community, racism and nationalism into play and lets them circulate hysterically, precisely in order to sensitize and strengthen the population’s empathy for the state’s potential for extermination. Fascism thus marks the transition from apparent peace to open war, whereby the state also becomes part of a war machine, which it has itself let loose from a certain point on. This kind of fascist war machine, which aims at the annihilation of populations, thus emerges from the state itself.

At the same time, the masses are permanently mobilized and constituted as a nation, a specific process that George Mosse described in detail in his book One People, One Empire, One Leader. For Mosse, National Socialism is merely the borderline case of democracy, pushing the indoctrination of homogenous collective ideas, which is always observed in democracies, to the extreme. (Mosse 1979: 15ff.) The sermon of power is here related to the irrationalism of a fascist mass politics, which realizes a unity of the people, which only exists on paper, and makes it tangible and tangible, so to speak. In this way, the general will of the state is presented day after day as a collective emotion. The Nazis extended the process of constructing the emotionalisation of unity to an entire people and pushed it to the extreme of annihilation, which ultimately included their own suicide. Fascism thereby translates the collective psychologies into external manifestations, monuments and sewerage systems into which the masses flow and in which their expressions and desires can circulate collectively, desires that include the violation of the ban, which in turn want to be shared with many and culminate in monumental representations. There is a rapid increase in media tendencies, which in certain democratic

procedures and ceremonies are also encountered.1 The nation is now coagulating into the imaginary incarnation of the people, it is a specific national self-representation based on what is supposed to unite the people: language, history, homeland, blood, etc.2

Let us briefly turn to the current situation in Germany. The right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) already dominated the last federal election campaign in broad outlines, succeeding in publicly replacing the social antagonism between rich and poor with the propaganda “Germans versus foreigners”, and all major parties then more or less aligned their policies with the objections of the AfD. With an untiring warning against AfD, the enlightened wing of the German middle class again shows one thing above all else: that they are wildly determined to carry on as before, to pull together in their small country and to close both eyes to the world outside, except to perceive it as a cheap holiday paradise and to use it as a rubbish dump for their own goods. And finally, in social amnesia, to take every institution for granted and to see everything that disturbs, even if it is AfD, only as the cause of one’s own mental indigestion. For the attribution of racism to AfD alone masks systemic racism and the general racism of the majority. It is now almost considered a common good that in order to dominate a refugee, one must either integrate him or label him a potential criminal, a person who is then racially despised. For the refugee, integration then means in turn to imitate the Germans. This is the idea of German education that is still misunderstood today: to educate a monkey. And one must not forget that right-wing populists from the AfD to the CSU have made an offer to the part of the population at the very bottom of the social hierarchy, based on explaining their social dissatisfaction with the threat to German prosperity posed by the refugees. As offended Germans, the socially weak may then also feel strong and demand that the sums of money which the state spends on the control of the refugees be limited, since the refugees get everything and the locals get nothing and so on and so forth. In the rejection of everything foreign, the different classes and strata join together closely, the class system turns its antagonisms and the harshness of its competition completely to the outside.

The new neo-fascist movements try to subordinate the capitalist economy to the logic of the civil war (without, however, touching the rules of the economy in any way), especially when it seems today that parts of the middle classes can no longer follow various neo-liberal postulates that demand an enrichment of the self, the self-reliant entrepreneur and cultural singularity, due to their economic precarization. In its boom phase, the neoliberal project propagated individualism without the individual and tough competition, and now, with the threat of the middle classes’ decline, it must feed their resentments and thus also promote identity politics, xenophobia and paranoia. The conglomerate of neoliberal governance practices has initially simply taken over the post-fascist movements, only to reconfigure a set of dispositives that intensify civil war.

The racist phantasm, which is always part of the state racism that excludes the stranger and monitors and regulates the life and death of the population, has now adopted a not unintentional minor modification. In accordance with the general rules of the game of neo-liberalism, we are also observing a development here from the security to the risk element. The racially connoted discourse on migration initially presents the indigenous population as an integral, quasi-organic body, characterized by clear boundaries to the outside world, which must be defended against the hordes and nomads from the South who threaten the homogeneity of the healthy body of the people. And this includes today, with the change from the racism of racial doctrines to the racism of utilitarian considerations, and in the expansion from security to risk, the strict distinction between desirable and qualified foreign specialists, who are in short supply in some sectors in Germany, and the unwanted refugee, who stands for the mass of useless people from the global South.

It is not the dynamics of biopower that determines racism, but rather the need to reduce the division of classes within the global South.

The population cannot reproduce without being divided, which means that, from a biopolitical point of view, it is also differentiated from the outset by the strategies of capital, whose class struggle has thus ever already had a racist component.

The biopolitical concept of these post-fascisms consists in the direct implantation of the postulate of “racial war” in the class conflicts. It is therefore not surprising that the important operations of the right-wing populist and neo-fascist policies, which operate in the real milieu of war of and against the populations, determine as their enemies above all the deeply colonized parts of the population such as migrants, refugees and Muslims. The subjects who resist in this context and who are today political per se, since they are integrated as a quasi homogeneous group into the global world market, where they have been totally dispossessed and disenfranchised, thus expressing the truth of the current economic and political world situation, are the migrants and refugees who mostly risk their (naked) lives during their flight.3

Thus, the cross-border free flow of goods, services and capital basically takes precedence over the mobility of people, whereby highly qualified foreign workers from the South are certainly to be integrated into the economies of the metropolises, but only the owners and managers of big capital as well as the political and cultural elites are guaranteed relatively free movement around the globe. A large part of humanity today is simply stuck in more or less camp-like conditions and dwellings.

It has to be melted in one’s mouth once again, assets amounting to approximately 40 trillion US dollars disappeared into nothingness on a global level after the financial crisis of 2008; in the USA alone, 14 trillion US dollars of private household assets disappeared into thin air. Long before that, the US dollar-denominated money capital and financial flows, which had been growing steadily since the 1970s due in part to the US trade deficit, had already detached themselves from global trade volumes. Since the 2000s, the major European banks in particular had bought securities and derivatives listed in US dollars in gigantic sums, some of which, as it turned out during the crisis, were toxic, so that a gigantic gap in the dollar funding of the European banks opened up. When the market collapsed in 2008, for example, the outstanding accounts of German banks on Wall Street amounted to more than 1,000 billion US dollars. This means that US derivatives had been bought on a large scale with dollars borrowed from Wall Street, which were then reclaimed by the latter. Panic broke out among the banks, whereupon governments had to pump trillions into the financial system and carry out partial nationalizations of banks, insurance companies and other companies. This placed such a heavy burden on the budget coffers of the USA and the states in Europe that a tightened austerity policy was the logical consequence, with the governments transferring the losses of capital and the financial system to the wage-earning workers and employees, parts of the indebted middle class, the unemployed and the totally dependent. In Europe, the countries were turned against each other, that is, the crisis problem emanating from financial capital was reinterpreted as a conflict between work-shy southerners and hard-working northern Europeans. Alternatively, it was also the allegedly bloated welfare state in Germany, Italy or Greece, too high wages, too rigid labour markets or even the trade unions that were supposedly responsible for the crisis. In addition, since state bailouts are unpopular with larger sections of the population, financial crises are often associated with moral failures not only of bankers but also of politicians, and the relationship between creditor and debtor can easily be personified. All this strengthens right-wing movements. It is easy to see that in the US and Europe ideological set pieces, composed of nationalism, racism and neoliberal rubbish, have gained weight and momentum after the financial crisis. The right-wing populist movements only had to pick up on this kind of “discourse” in order to inspire parts of the population with their paranoia stagings and extermination fantasies, especially in the social networks, and then finally take action themselves and attack the refugees’ camp accommodation with incendiary devices and steel bullets. The national preferences that are being staged today, such as brexite, cannot become part of the smooth functioning of the state’s policies without constantly rekindling fear of migrants, refugees and

Muslims is constructed, disseminated and mobilised and thus placed at the service of controlling the mobility of those sections of the population who have to migrate from the south of the globe in order to survive at all. The contrast between the complete freedom of the flow of goods, money and capital on the one hand and the lack of mobility of large parts of the world population on the other hand must be pacified by specific forms of regulation, which are materialized by the state apparatuses and ideologically worked on by the populist neo-fascist movements.

When in 2008 the management of the financial crisis in the capitalist core countries, which in Europe in particular consisted in the transfer of the debts of private banks to the tax payers,4 was accepted by the public, it was clear that both the transnational war machine of capital and the states had to set in motion a new wave of internal and external colonization of certain population groups, in order, on the one hand, to absorb public debt through a tightened austerity policy and, on the other hand, to find an enemy who could be blamed for the misery5 The dismantling of the welfare state and the stagnation of real wages led to private households being further integrated into the debt economy and having to “speculate” on their income in financial terms.6 And debts must be understood as power apparatuses that particularly affect women, blacks and the poor. Racist policies, especially institutionalized racism, have been part of austerity policy from the very beginning. So after the crisis of 2008, racism and nationalism were finally raised to the level of state power.

1 Deleuze and Guattari have sharply criticized democracy in all its forms and constellations and call it the cousin of totalitarianism.

2The state can universalize the categories of perception within the boundaries of its territory by constituting a population whose members possess the same categories of perception after having undergone and suffered specific conditioning and inoculation of procedures called education. This applies in particular to the construction of the citizen: in the liberal view of the state, the citizen is everyone who is recognised as such by a constitution, and in order to do so he or she does not need to possess any special characteristics linked to blood or origin, as is later assumed by popular racism. The state establishes the citizen as a formally free and equal subject, identical with its atomization, and at the same time represents the unity that is divided into formally equal monads. This is how its political sovereignty is manifested. Fascism, on the other hand, puts the nation before the citizen in order to ultimately liquidate the citizen. The national character, which is by no means equal to citizenship, but which is repeatedly mixed with it in Germany, ultimately even favouring the nation over the general citizen, is the result of certain disciplinary measures and inoculation procedures, all of which amount to sublimated racism.

In contrast to the national character, the citizen is a purely juridical entity that exists insofar as the citizen is placed in a relationship of rights and duties to the state, whereas in German conservative state theory the nation is regarded as an ethnocultural entity that can be legally defined and territorialized by the state, but is nevertheless clearly distinguished from citizenship. Ultimately, however, it is the capitalist state that produces the nation with its constitutive elements (uniform economic market, territory and language) by intervening specifically in the material matrices of space and time that are to become part of the capitalist economy and production relations.

3The proletariat is already an objectively migrant proletariat, because at any given moment the worker in wage labor can be dismissed in order to be forced to settle elsewhere according to the demands of capital accumulation. This mobility of the proletariat, even if it remains spatially limited, is a condition of modern industry. And without the migration of the global proletariat to new markets, from country to city, from city to city, from country to country, capitalist accumulation is not possible. As the most deterritorialized part of the proletariat, today the global surplus population, although spatially defined, has the greatest potential for revolutionary transformation. This is because, in the sense of Deleuze and Guattari, they function as a minority that does not do anything more than make a

proletarian mass, but as a mass is immediately confronted with the institutional, police and legal structures of the nation states. It is imperative to put a stop to the Schmitt construction of migration policies: For him, nomadism is always only a temporary phenomenon of migration, so that it must inevitably become the source of a new territorial order that takes place between imperialisms or states; it finds its historical destiny in becoming part of these formations, and if certain conditions are denied by it, then violent acts that destroy it quickly occur.

4The state interventions to save the financial system have included lending to private banks and their recapitalization, the purchase of bank assets and state guarantees for bank deposits or even for bank balance sheets. In total, more than seven trillion dollars were made available for this purpose by participating institutions, central banks, banking supervisors and finance ministries. The intensity of the measures for the respective economies depended on the degree of interconnectedness of a country’s global financial capital, the amount of available public funds, executive policies and the power of domestic corporations and banks. In the US, the bailout of the US Treasury Department placed less of a burden on taxpayers than in Europe.

5 These aggravations are based on the pretence of exclusion, since the unemployed have nothing to do under the dictates of the job centres in a market in which there is a reasonably secure core workforce in the large companies, the partially self-employed precariat and the state-subsidised dependent employees. The superfluous remainder is relegated to forced labour as ALG II recipients, where the work itself is the marginal income, as a basic income independent of work is still rejected.

6With regard to austerity policy, it must be reiterated that this does not exclusively concern the reduction of welfare state benefits, but requires a long-term restructuring of the state, which will promote the expansion of financialisation into the areas of social reproduction and the integration of the population into the financial system. Austerity involves a long-term political strategy that develops both the economy of debt, into which even small incomes are fed via credit, and speculative operations with money (securitization of consumer credit). In particular, the stagnation of real wages is driving households into the debt economy, within which they are now fatally forced to speculate on their reduced small incomes.

Translated with (free version)

Translated with (free version)

Translated with (free version)

Foto: Stefan Paulus


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Ich, Achim Szepanski (Wohnort: Deutschland), verarbeite zum Betrieb dieser Website personenbezogene Daten nur im technisch unbedingt notwendigen Umfang. Alle Details dazu in meiner Datenschutzerklärung.