In How To Stop Fascism, award winning journalist Paul Mason warns the Capitol Hill riot was no one-off. It is evidence of a global trend: the convergence of right-wing populism with a new kind of fascism.
Though the far-right groups number maybe tens of thousands, their thought-patterns are spreading to millions of people, via conspiracy theories like QAnon, through Telegram and Discord channels and through acts of symbolic violence.
We are no longer dealing with ‘tribute bands’ to Nazism: fascism has been regrown from its philosophical roots, in pre-1914 Europe – scientific racism, irrationalism and power worship. And while the first fascism was focused on racial hierarchies, today’s far right is equally obsessed with gender – at war with feminism and liberalism as well as the left.
To stop their rise, Mason argues we need to do three things:
• revive the anti-fascist ethos, so that instead of a small group of activists, the whole progressive wing of society identifies as anti-fascist;
• build a political alliance of the left and centre, to keep figures like Trump, Bolsonaro and Orban permanently out of power;
• and enact strict laws and regulations to suppress hate speech, end the amplification of fascist ideas on social media, and silence those advocating genocide.
The new fascist fantasy revolves around a coming catastrophe – Day X – in which a combination of climate change, migration and religious conflict triggers a global, ethnic civil war. To stop them we need to learn the lessons of the failures of the 1920s and 1930s, when both the political centre and the left totally misjudged the nature of the threat.
Want to learn more about the book? Click on the links below…
The first fascism was born amid the slaughter of the First World War. While millions of people took part in revolutions and peace movements, some discovered they loved war, dehumanisation and mechanised violence. They formed violent movements to suppress the post-1918 workers’ revolutions. The Russian Civil War became a training ground for a generation of Europeans dedicated literally to “killing Marxism”.
Then, in Italy, the fascist movement seized its chance. In How to Stop Fascism, Paul Mason re-runs Mussolini’s rise to power as “a board game with five moves” – showing how his victory was not inevitable, but that the left, liberalism and the trade unions made needless mistakes, squandering the chance to build a united anti-fascist movement that could vie for influence with the fascists.
Mason looks at Hitler’s rise to power, between 1929 and 1933 through the eyes of left-wing activists and theorists, as they fought each other instead of the Nazis, only to wake up “dazed” on the day of Hitler’s victory, forced to surrender without a fight.
The thought-architecture of modern fascism is constructed around five ideas:
– that migration is a form of ‘genocide’ against the white race
– that feminism, liberalism and human rights advocates are the willing accomplices
– that behind it all lies “Cultural Marxism” – a plot to destroy western society
– that the main activity has to be, for now, storytelling through symbolic violence – preparing for…
– the cataclysmic moment when liberal democracies are drowned within a global, ethnic civil war
The thought-architecture is coherent, despite its detachment from reality. As freemarket ideology collapses, and with it people’s belief in democracy and even their sense of self, millions are caught up in movements like QAnon, the Querdenker in Germany, or Modi’s aggressive Hindu nationalism.
The ideological foundation of 21st century fascism is rejection both of modernity and humanism: its deepest thinkers want to reverse social progress back at least 250 years, before the birth of modern science, the Enlightenment and democracy.
But today’s fascists don’t need to wait for a Hitler to write Mein Kampf: they use networks to co-create and evolve the fascist doctrine, independently of leaders and hierarchies, fuelling the process of myth making and quasi-religious conversion.
The philosopher Hannah Arendt described fascism as the “temporary alliance of the elite and the mob”. If so, it has only ever been beaten by a temporary alliance of the centre and the left. In How to Stop Fascism, Paul Mason calls or a new Popular Front – learning the lessons of France and Spain in the mid-1930s.
The Popular Fronts were not just electoral pacts between liberalism, socialism, progressive nationalism and communism. They were mass cultural movements, with grassroots bodies that operated independent of party hierarchy and discipline. And they were transformative cultural movements, taking over and energising everything from the movies to glossy magazines to dance music.
But they went further. All successful anti-fascist movements, and democracies in the 1930s enacted antifascist laws: banning uniformed parades, controlling weapons ownership, monitoring the flow of finance to far right groups and ultimately outlawing the fascist parties themselves.
Mason argues we need a nuanced form of this – a Militant Democracy 2.0 – focused both on maintiaing the rule of law, forcing the police and armed forces to obey and implement the law, and regulating social media to drive hate speech and incitement offline.
Finally, Masin argues, we need to revive the anti-fascist ethos. The far right is at war with concepts of “virtue” and “justice” – and the universal rights of all humans – so we need to defend them with vigour.
In a moving final chapter Mason describes his visit to the Majdanek death camp in Poland, warning: “500 people escaped from Majdanek. Nobody would escape a facility built for the same purpose today”.