Proto-fascism, neo-fascism, post-fascism. As this proliferation of prefixes attests, observers of the political scene are searching for the right words to describe today’s xenophobic, ultranationalist far-right politics. While many hesitate to use the term fascism outright, citing differences between today’s historical context and that of the 1930s, the rise of parties with Nazi and fascist roots in countries such as Sweden and Italy—the birthplace of fascism—may make the unqualified use of the F-word more tempting.
Still, the differences between today’s far right, which mostly attempts to accommodate itself to the realities of electoral politics, and that of Hitler and Mussolini are large enough to merit caution when it comes to totalitarian taxonomy. As Noam Chomsky remarks in a recent interview, “The United States is leading the way to a kind of proto-fascism. It’s not the ’30s, but there’s enough reminiscence to make it feel severely unpleasant.”
Turning away from the classic model of European fascism, philosopher Alberto Toscano seeks an alternative perspective on the question of fascism’s aptness as a label. He looks instead to radical Black thinkers in the United States—Angela Davis and George Jackson in particular—who identified a uniquely American form of fascism that has its roots in slavery and Jim Crow. Attention to this tradition and its emphasis on racial terror as a form of political repression can “expand the historical and political imagination of an anti-fascist left,” Toscano argues, preparing it to counter the “extreme positions” taken up by today’s far right.
Alongside these essays other authors explore the nature of fascist and anti-fascist language, the potential of Germany’s politics of memory to stave off right-wing extremism, the symbiotic relationship between neoliberalism and neofascism, the techniques of contemporary authoritarianism, and more.
The recent electoral success of a party with Nazi origins must be understood as part of the long history of white Swedes’ desire for racial homogeneity.
A debate is roiling about the aptness of comparing Trump to European fascists. But radical Black thinkers have long argued that racial slavery created its own unique form of American fascism.
Germany’s official policy of shame about its past is a model the United States should adopt. But it won’t protect either country from far-right extremism.
The neofascist assault on democracy is a last-ditch effort on the part of neoliberal capitalism to rescue itself from crisis. The only solution is a decisive retreat from globalized finance.