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(en) US, black rose fed: NO TIME FOR PATIENCE: FASCISM, CLIMATE, AND CAPITALISM By Mark Bray
Mon, 5 Nov 2018 08:52:44 +0200
We are living in ominous times. Every week something new: white supremacist murders in
Kentucky and Pittsburgh; the continued rise of the far right in Europe; Trump's attack on
transgender rights; the election of aspiring tyrant Jair Bolsonaro to the Brazilian
presidency; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that climate catastrophe
is likely only about 20 years away. What's next? ---- At a time when we should be uniting
globally to reorganize our way of life to stave off climate disaster, many parts of the
world are instead veering to the right, rejecting internationalism and demonizing
marginalized communities. How did we get here? How can we escape annihilation?
Overlapping Roots of Fascism and Climate Catastrophe
Crucial to answering these questions is understanding how the rise of the far right and
the imminence of climate catastrophe are related threats. Most obviously the far right
promotes policies and perspectives that destroy the planet. Currently, the Trump
administration is working hard to repeal Obama's environmental protection policies.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has lifted a moratorium on mining exploration while
pushing a constitutional change that would enhance multinational exploitation of the
resources of the Philippines. The newly elected Brazilian President Bolsonaro is poised to
allow agribusiness free reign to cut down the Amazon.
More fundamentally, fascist and far right forces promote notions of ultra-nationalism and
xenophobia that block the essential task of putting the interests of the planet and all of
its inhabitants over those of any single group. Nationalism has fueled not only opposition
to the European Union but also a rejection of the Paris Agreement and widespread climate
denial among European far right parties like UKIP, Front National and the Sweden
Democrats. The threat of the climate catastrophe is far more imminent and egregious in the
global south, and white supremacy clearly discourages caring about most of the world.
There are "ecofascists" who coopt the concept of bio-regionalism to advance their
genocidal politics, but their views do not have significant sway in actual far-right
policy and their "environmental" solution is not worthy of reasoned engagement.
But our analysis cannot stop here. Centrist and even nominally "leftist" governments
pursue anti-environmental policies. Major signatories to the Paris Agreement are not on
pace to meet the agreement's goals, and even if they were it would be too little too late.
No, the roots of these crises extend much deeper.
We must recognize that the climate crisis and the resurgence of the far right are two of
the most acute symptoms of our failure to abolish capitalism.
A capitalist system that prioritizes profit and perpetual growth over all else is the
mortal enemy of global aspirations for a sustainable economy that satisfies needs rather
than stock portfolios. "Green capitalism" was touted as a compromise that could allow
humanity to keep the planet and eat it too. But scientific data show that incremental
adjustments of pollution standards and banning plastic straws cannot compensate for the
destruction wrought by the 100 companies that produce 71 percent of global emissions. Far
too often, efforts to reel in pollution (or establish decent working conditions) are
derailed by the ability of multinational finance to either run roughshod over local laws
or divest from countries or regions that challenge their profitability.
Capitalist crisis, competition and manufactured scarcity also provide essential fuel for
the growth of fascist and far right politics-especially when there is no viable left
alternative. Early fascist and Nazi movements grew by exploiting economic insecurity
during the Great Depression while the left tore itself apart. In the 1970s, the fascist
National Front took advantage of economic turmoil in the UK and more recently, the
emergence of parties like the fascist Golden Dawn in Greece owed a great deal to the 2008
financial crisis. In part, Bolsonaro rode to victory by harnessing popular disenchantment
stemming from "the worst recession since the return of democracy."
In times of crisis, we can either look outward in solidarity or turn inward in xenophobic,
reactionary fear. Fascism and far right politics harness and promote fears of difference
and anxieties about joblessness and financial ruin when left alternatives falter. When
avowedly socialist political parties in Greece or Brazil enacted brutal austerity
measures, they opened the door for the far right. In the United States, Trump managed to
capitalize on opposition to free trade policies that had become the hallmark of the
Democratic Party. In a context of economic anxiety, Hillary Clinton's promise to "put a
lot of coal miners" out of work - even if it was in the interest of saving the planet -
played into the ability of the far right to generate support for Trump by taking advantage
of the antagonism between working class livelihood and ecological sustainability that
System Change, Not "Civility"
Even the northern European welfare states that have avoided harsh austerity have failed to
prevent the rise of the far right. In part, this stems from the rise of welfare chauvinism
- the belief that welfare is beneficial, but should not be extended to "outsiders" - which
demonstrates the limitations of "social democracy in one country" when such wealth is
still produced by exploiting the resources and labor of the global South.
A very different analysis has been offered recently by centrist pundits and politicians in
the US, who argue that the underlying root of threats to our society emerge from the
growth of "extremism" at the expense of "moderation." When Cesar Sayoc mailed bombs to
Democratic Party figures, Chuck Schumer echoedTrump's infamous "both sides" comments by
arguing that "despicable acts of violence and harassment are being carried out by radicals
across the political spectrum." To Rachel Maddow, "Puerto Rican separatists" and the KKK
are both simply "violent extremist groups." The policy of interning migrant children in
concentration camps spurred less of a public debate about institutional racism than it did
about the "civility" of those who confronted the policy's architects. Of course, this
implicit argument - that no policy is ever more heinous than the "incivility" of one who
violates common decorum in protesting it - paves the way for ascendant authoritarianism
while curtailing the scope of resistance.
Centrist discourse has abstracted white supremacy and anti-Semitism into "hate,"
depoliticized fascism and antifascism by caricaturizing them as mirror images of
"extremism," and ignored what should be one of the most important news stories: the fairly
imminent destruction of the planet.
Debates about reformism vs. revolutionism have waged for generations on the left. But now
we are on a deadline. Lesser-evilism among capitalist politicians may have some rationale
when spending five minutes casting a ballot on Election Day, but we don't have time for it
to be a guiding strategical outlook. We need to organize movements to build popular power
and shut down the industries that threaten our existence.
Fascism is ascendant. The world is on fire. This is no time to be patient. If we don't
abolish capitalism, capitalism will abolish us.
This piece was originally published by TruthOut under the title "How Capitalism Stokes the
Far Right and Climate Catastrophe." If you enjoyed this piece we recommend the related
article "From Pittsburgh to Brazil: Antisemitism and Fascist Violence."
Mark Bray is a historian of human rights, terrorism and politics in modern Europe. He is
the author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, Translating Anarchy: The Anarchism of
Occupy Wall Street, and the co-editor of Anarchist Education and the Modern School: A
Francisco Ferrer Reader.
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