Fascism, as an iconoclastic and revolutionary political orientation, is one that has made itself dynamic by bucking the traditions associated with the Right. While it is anti-liberal, anti-multicultural, and anti-democratic, it is also anti-conservative. As it believes in a mythical understanding of a “pure” past, it believes that the institutions of the past, the authorities that exist today, can no longer be “conserved.” Instead, they need a radical solution; one that destroys the conventional order and rebuilds one that they believe is a modernist interpretation of the empires of the deep past. This is not an accurate interpretation of historical nations, of course, but instead a reactionary fantasy that is colored by unrestrained hatreds, the desire to oppress, and the need to rethink contemporary society and reinstate explicit inequality.
To do this project, fascism looks to many movements and ideas associated with the Left in an attempt to “get to the root” of the problem and to recruit revolutionaries who could be swayed by their romanticism. This process is where fascists use Leftist projects for Right wing core ideas, like inequality, racial nationalism, and a cult of violent masculinity. This process was not just true in interwar Europe, but even today as neo-fascism attempts to make its way into social movements founded on Left wing principles. Anti-imperialism, radical ecology, animal rights, post-colonialism, broad-based anti-capitalism, and other projects have all seen attempts at entryism by the far right, and they have worked hard to have their ideas infect these political tendencies, so much so that often times people are unaware that a fascist politic has made its way into their political vision.
This is the founding idea behind the fantastic new book, Against the Fascist Creep, by anti-fascist journalist and author, Alexander Reid Ross. The book, just released by AK Press, outlines a history of fascism since its development in Italy, Germany, Austria, and other European nations, and how it has shifted and evolved in the decades since.
The “fascist creep,” as I am using the term in this text, refers to the porous borders between fascism and the radical right, through which fascism is able to “creep” into mainstream discourse. However, the “fascist creep” is also a double-edged term, because it refers more specifically to the crossover space between right and left that engenders fascism in the first place. Hence, fascism creeps in two ways: (1) it draws left-wing notions of solidarity and liberation into ultranationalist, right-wing ideology; and (2), at least in its early stages, fascists often utilize “broad front” strategies, proposing a mass-based, nationalist platform to gain access to mainstream political audiences and key administrative positions. (AtFC, pg. 3)
Ross weaves a history in the crevices where fascism attempts to find an avenue into mainstream discourse and reclamation of its revolutionary potential. In the years after World War II, fascist ideologues changed their rhetoric and strategies, often arguing for ethnic separatism, anti-colonial racial nationalism, and meta-political orientations so that they could avoid the associations with the failed movements of Mussolini and Hitler. At the same time, far right terrorism through the Years of Lead had direct ties to the spiritual paths of people like Julius Evola and to right populist political parties like France’s Front Nationale. Over the years the development of neofolk, Asatru and ethnic forms of Nordic paganism, the militia movement, the European New Right, and, later, the Alt Right, were all attempts at finding a new space for fascist ideas and a way to make them new and exciting again to an upcoming generation of racialists.
In the U.S., the development of national anarchism through groups like the Bay Area National Anarchists and the National Anarchist Tribal Alliance of New York, have been a part of this continuous reimagining, and they had the potential to try and recruit from the left. Projects like Attack the System, the national-anarchist, pan-secessionist project we have discussed before, has attempted to bridge the world of Left and post-left anarchism with fascism, allowing in white nationalists as a real “revolutionary” force. In the case of the radical environmental movement, where anarchism has intersected with revolutionary forms of ecology, National Anarchism has made larger inroads by exploiting deconstructionist impulses. This was particularly true in the case of Green Anarchist magazine, which Ross explains was the target of entryism by the syncretic fascist philosopher Troy Southgate.
As Southgate navigated the fascist scene, he became increasingly drawn to a branch of the left-to-right ecology movement cofounded by a British intellectual named Richard Hunt. Hunt’s UK-based journal, Green Anarchist, advocated positions that were just as problematic as, if not worse than, its US counterparts. Hunt’s “beyond right and left” political ideology generated particular hostility from the left. A supporter of village-level anarchism on a bioregional basis that operated outside of present contexts of nation-states and consumer societies, Hunt argued that racism was natural to people but unhelpful in the context of anticapitalist movements. While Hunt supported blood and soil–style bioregional movements, he incorporated nationalist histories and “ethnopluralism” in keeping with Benoist’s ideals of diversity. When Hunt backed the United Kingdom’s involvement in the Persian Gulf War based on patriotic sentiment, he was pushed out of Green Anarchist and formed a new journal entitled Alternative Green, which more explicitly advocated for a decentralized bioregionalism with traditionalist and nationalist tendencies, seeing the potential of national and cultural rebirth after the collapse of industrial civilization. (AFC 162-63)
Anti-imperialist projects have found allies in white nationalists in that they are for “Ethno-pluralism,” the right to separation from the dominant culture to maintain cultural “legitimacy.” While many discuss the right to reclaim identity for indigenous people or those of African descent, the fascist element in this discourse believes that white should be afforded this as well, and instead of seeing race as a social invention with consequence they think it is a biological and spiritual reality that should create divisions among groups. In this way, they are “against empires” since they see it as a form of “globalization” that destroys ethnic nationalism and homogeneity in nation states.
What Ross analyzes is broadly within the “Third Positionist” camp, which utilizes elements of the left for a far right purpose. This means anti-capitalist critiques from the right, even going as far as to embody some of the same visioning as the left.
With its syncretic configuration of political ideology, Third Positionism took root in the skinhead and neofolk subcultures as a kind of palingenetic ultranationalism that, with a pessimistic and nihilist sense of modern life, looked toward a revolutionary new age born of traditional culture that could thrive amid the collapse of liberal multiculturalism. (AFC 137)
While Third Positionism is often called a variant on fascism, even a minority within the larger movement, it is actually the dominant expression of fascism. The Alt Right, Neoreaction, racialist paganism, and so on, are all forms of Third Positionist thought, and the meta-political projects like Neofolk, which attempt to push fascist ideas through non-political venues, are comfortably within this analysis as well. It is from this vantage point that entryism on the left presents itself, and this can happen ideologically even without a concerted strategy from fascist organizers.
Ross attempts to answer these contradictions by putting out a call for consistency and understanding of how politics develop, to see the consequences of ideas. Are your politics consistently opposed to racial nationalism and in favor of multicultural society? Are your environmental politics intersectional, opposed to racism, and in favor of immigration? The Left’s projects have to have a clear understanding of the motivating factors for their own political ideas, as well as the ideas of the far right. The “fascist creep,” as Ross labels it, is the way that fascism can seep into left spaces, such as music circles or the movement against international capitalism. This can mean sorting out the way that anti-Semitic narratives seep into the anti-corporate and Palestinian solidarity movement, the “natural law” discourse that is celebrated in some Deep Ecological projects, and the cynical nihilism that has often been a part of the anti-consumerist movement, and to then build a politic that keeps the values of equality and diversity at the center of these varied movements. This is a call for intersectionality, or class compositional analysis, that sees that these movements need a way to remain connected and cannot throw each other aside for short-term gains.
As the Alt Right grows in the U.S., so does the anti-fascist movement. In Trump’s America there has been a validation of their toxic racism, yet there is also a growth of a mass anti-fascist movement that wants to shuffle off their influence. To do this effectively necessitates having a deep understanding of the movements we oppose so that we can clearly see where fascism is, where it grows, and where it comes from. Without that we are scrambling in the dark, calling anything reactionary or authoritarian “Fascism” without being able to see its growth in the corners. Ross’s book can be a guide for this, tracing us through how this movement of hierarchy and inequality has changed over the years, and he is able to boil it down to its essentials.