Editor’s note: On April 6, national organizer for the Black Alliance for Peace, Ajamu Baraka appeared on Black Agenda Radio with Margaret Kimberley and Glen Ford. Below is a transcript of his speech on fascism.
Africans can think for ourselves. Euro American leftist liberals tell us that certain historical developments suggest that the US is moving towards forms of governance and society that they define as fascistic. Born out of the crisis of capitalism, as manifested in the post first imperialist war or so-called called World War One in Europe, fascism, a term systematized and given life by Benito Mussolini, that reflected his definition of a particular economic, political and social relationships that reflected the optimal governance program for his movement in Italy in the nineteen twenties. Its replication of further development as the descriptive term for a terroristic, anti-democratic, militaristic, white supremacist and imperialist social system occurred across Europe with his more infamous example being the German Nazi Party funded by Adolf Hitler.
But I start there not to delve into the historical intricacies of this term as it was systematize in Europe, but to in fact de-center it to reject the assumption that fascism was something new, something unique to Europe in the early 20th century, that its seemingly reemergence in Europe and the United States represents a distinctive new development. I argue it has been already been said already this morning, that thereby shifting the standpoint away from Europe, that is to decenter to Europe, to engage in a process of epistemological decolonization, we find that the fascism that emerged in Europe did not break from the totalitarian logic and practice of European colonialism.
What was different in the 20s and 30s was that the practices of colonialism was, as African revolutionaries like George Padmore, W.E.B. Dubois, and most famously Aime Cesaire, declared that what happened in Europe was that colonial practices that were applied in the colonies were now being applied or were applied in Europe. That was the case then and is the case during this contemporary period. So you see, understanding this is critically important because Eurocentric leftists who have aligned themselves with right wing, neo liberal capitalist Democrats as part of a confused strategy to so-called counter the right have instead lent the little credibility that they have to inadvertently propping up the legitimacy of a US settler state. And they enter into it through an intra-bourgeois struggle between sectors of the capitalist class. As Protestants, they don’t understand that or recognize that all sectors of the bourgeoisie are united in one thing: the perpetuation of the bourgeois order, which means that their interests are in fundamental contradiction to ours.
So our task, my friends, our task is to engage Africans so they and we are not confused and not used as props in the struggle that has nothing to do with our interests as colonized workers and members of naturally oppressed nations, something that should be quite obvious even in the short term that Massa Biden has been in office, where it is quite clear that he continues to be committed to strengthening the US, EU, NATO axis of domination. You see, for us, we say that the lived experience of the colonized suggests that the difference when you look at Mr. Biden and look at US foreign policies, you look at the machinations of European powers, that there is no difference between a white-supremacist-liberal-imperialist order and something European activists label as “fascism.”.
So in my brief presentation, it has to be brief. I want to touch on three essential questions and then share some examples of contemporary fascism. And we can’t delve into this really deeply because of our time constraints. It is a sort of an inside joke on this piece. But let me just share what those questions are. One: can liberal democracy and fascism in forms of governance exist simultaneously in the same social formation? And secondly: why does contradictions of the colonial capitalist system generate a turn to forms of fascism in northern capitalist nations but anti-capitalism and anticapitalist radicalization and revolution in the global south? And finally: what is the relationship of neo liberalism to fascism? Are they representative of two distinct structures or expressions of the same underlying class rule? And does it make a difference for Africans and colonized people in nations across the planet?
Now, let me touch on these questions. Fascism, and can it exist in the same social structure. Well, Samir Amin argued that democracy and fascism are forms of governance for bourgeois rule. Liberal democracy provides the best form for providing legitimacy to bourgeois rule. So it will be embraced for as long as possible, especially since it reflects the unbridled power of capital, that is the capitalist dictatorship. It can exist in one formation. And we say yes, because you have to look at this in proper terms. When you look at the European colonial project, will you understand that in all of the European colonial empires, they were able to eventually provide forms of democratic participation to workers and other classes at the center while simultaneously imposing fascism as a governance system and generator of economic surplus in the periphery. They could be contained in one social structure. In the US, for example, forms of democracy were extended to the non bourgeois classes over time, including the white working class, while also maintaining a brutal racial apartheid system for the super-exploitation of black labor in the South and even in the industrializing centers of the north in the 20th century. So yes, they can be contained in one social structure when you understand you’re looking at the colonial relationships.
Second, why does the contradictions of the colonial capitalist system generate a turn to forms of fascism in the northern nations but anticapitalist radicalization and revolution in the global south? Well, we know that there is a turn toward populism in the global south that results in some right-wing governments coming to power. But, you know, when we talk about fascism in the north, the common sense explanation for the rise of fascism in the West is that it’s a response to the very real ravages of neoliberalism. At least in the north, when you look at the turn toward neoliberalism, what we call the denationalization of the production processes, what is properly known or popularly known as globalization, produce sharply contradictions between capital and labor in the north. And we don’t have to explain how all that sort of unfolded. But the issue is this you know, with the ways in which this neoliberalism has expressed itself with temp agencies and part time low wage work, gig work, the disappearance of benefits and especially health care benefits, intensified exploitation of the working class. Why is it that instead of the working class moving toward radicalism, it moves toward fascism? And we say that is one particular element, white supremacy. The notion that white folks have a God given right to privilege, to material superiority, that they can justify the fact that they make up 10 percent of the world’s population, but yet still consume almost 40 percent of the world’s resources that “Make America Great” and liberal US exceptionalism are two sides of the same white supremacist coin. That they can embrace notions of the doctrine of discovery, of Manifest Destiny, “the white man’s burden” or humanitarian interventionism, and the responsibility to protect. These are all part of the ideological superstructure that keeps the white working class tethered to its bourgeoisie. It is white supremacy that explains why you have to turn into fascism as opposed to radicalism in northern countries.
And what is the relationship between neo liberalism to fascism? Are they representative of two distinct structures or expressions of the same underlying class rule and doesn’t make a difference for Africans and colonized people across the planet? We say no. We say that fascism is the terroristic coordination of society resulting from the convergence of capitalist finance and corporate power with the state. Does this not capture exactly neoliberalism and the neoliberal state? You cannot separate the two unless you abstract fascism like many liberals do from its class foundation. If you reduce it to just behaviorism, your understanding of fascism based on the fact you see too many bad Hitler movies, we don’t have the luxury of that kind of confusion. We say that the neo liberalism is a form of capital, a form of capitalist rule. It is a rightist ideology and a rightist state structure. OK, therefore, this notion that one can fight the far right of so-called fascism with embracing neo liberal fascism is absurd and ideological mystification. And that we’ve got to reject and be clear on.
Neo liberalism emerged out of the counter-revolutionary period of the nineteen seventies. That was part of the counter insurgency and counter-revolutionary response from the upsurges of the 1960s and in the 1970s. It’s no accident that it was first forcibly imposed in Chile in 1973. Domestically, it was, in fact, the rebellion of capital against the dominance of Keynesianism. They wanted to eliminate the welfare state and to impose discipline on the working class in the US with the emergence of Ronald Reagan in the 1980s, then we had the consolidation of this political movement and the consolidation of what we came to understand as global neo liberal capitalist globalization.
Today we talk about fascism. Let’s talk about some contemporary manifestations, some contemporary expressions of fascism: Well, when you have support for right wing coup in Honduras, when the National Defense Authorization Act gives legal authority to incarcerate anyone considered a threat to national security without trial or habeas corpus. When you have the killing of US citizens without any kind of due process, arbitrary invasion of nations directly and indirectly through proxies, the failure to protect citizens or residents being murdered by police forces, the use of of the Espionage Act to imprison whistleblowers. The authorization of massive surveillance of the public, expansion of drone warfare, including the use of double taps. When they hit you with a drone, first responders come out and they hit you again. The support for right wing coups in Ukraine, Egypt, the attack and destruction of Libya, the two thousand four hundred percent expansion of the 1033 program, the 1900% expansion of AFRICOM, increasing the bounty on Assata Shakur. All of these are examples of fascism under your first Black president. So we’ve got to be clear about what it is up against and what we need to go the way forward.
My friends, it’s been laid out and we laid out again here. If we’re not talking about a movement toward complete and total transformation, revolutionary transformation, the defeat of this colonial capitalist state, then we are BSing the people and we are undermining our historic mission. We’ve got to build effective organizations based on our best understanding of the social structure that we are part of and the social structure that we are impacted by. So as I move toward closure now: what are the kinds of organizations we have to build to address this challenge? That’s the central question that we have. We must have, I argue, clear, unambiguous socialist policies. We’ve got to understand our connection to the world revolution, that we are African people, that we are at war, and that we have to build structures that allow us to ensure that this one-sided war that we are involved in now is reversed. And we make this a contest that will ensure that we will, in fact, be victorious at some point. So, my friends, let us contemplate these questions that have been raised and we’ll be raised with the rest of these presentations. Let us rededicate ourselves to the struggle and let us remind ourselves that we are part of global humanity and that we are in the majority, and that in fact, when we organize ourselves and are clear about our historic mission, we in fact will win.