Chileans resisting on the streets of Santiago on November 11. Photo: Javier Vergara
Fascism is no longer a horror story from the last century. With the rise of ultra-right forces in several parts of the world, talk of fascism has re-emerged with a vengeance. Debates and comparisons abound on whether the ultra-right of today is a direct descendant of the hordes of Hitler and Mussolini or a new creature. What remains a certainty is that the working class must fight these forces worldwide before its too late.
Capitalism, confronted with a historic crisis, has unleashed the regressive narratives of hyper-nationalism and hate. At the core of the current fascist, ultra-right regimes is a desperate attempt to safeguard and secure finance capital from a structural assault by the working class. Imperialism, hyper-nationalism, militarism, dictatorship, hate and xenophobia are then simply manifestations of the larger bid to protect the interests of global finance capital.
In the United States for instance, the unending drama over the impeachment bid against Donald Trump continues even as a bipartisan agreement on a budget deal is struck. This deal will likely inflict further cuts in health care and social benefits, a trend that extends to every level of governance. This tacit understanding between so-called rivals in the political arena is reflective of the power wielded by financial capital. In this light, the impeachment agenda appears nothing short of a gimmick.
In fact, the rise of Donald Trump in 2017 was no accident. The fissures created by Trump and other such forces across the world have been key in preventing working class unity against the political and financial establishment. On the foreign policy front, a malleable Trump has stirred up chaos across the world and has shelved US commitments to global climate and peace accords. The claim that Trump is an outsider or a fluke is exposed when it is clear how faithfully his administration has fulfilled its function as the spearhead of global capitalism. What defines him and other forces on the right is their ability to manipulate democracy and exploit the fractures of the system to divide people.
The assault of the right is nowhere as pronounced as in Latin America, which the US considers its own “backyard.” Amid the setbacks suffered by the alliance of the people’s governments of Our America, parliamentary and non-parliamentary coups led by right-wing reactionaries have been executed, and economic embargoes have stifled the growth of several countries. Right-wing stooges in the region, and traitors to the people – Sebastian Pinera in Chile, Lenin Moreno in Ecuador, Mauricio Macri in Argentina, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and now, Jeanine Anez in Bolivia – serve as standard bearers of the right-wing in the continent. Many have laid out a red carpet welcome for the International Monetary Fund (IMF), facilitating once again the entry of the ‘old but golden’ arm of financial imperialism in the global south.
In Latin America, the resistance is on the streets. Fans of Augusto Pinochet and Alfredo Stroessner are reigning in Chile and Paraguay. But at the same time, we have also witnessed hundreds of thousands of people on the streets opposing the Chilean president Sebastian Pinera and his policies. Chile, Ecuador and above all, Argentina have exposed the limits of the right-wing. Bolivia’s Evo Morales may have been overthrown but the coup regime is on shaky ground. In Brazil, even though Bolsonaro – an admirer of the erstwhile military dictatorship in Brazil (1964-85) – is trying desperately to ensure the corporate take over of each and every inch of Brazilian soil and water, the struggle for Lula’s freedom is a beacon of hope.
Meanwhile, Venezuela has proved time and again that there is hope against the right-wing. Venezuela shows that an empowered working class and a population with political understanding of the real enemy, based on their past experiences, will defy attempts of all the Boltons and the Lima Groups in the world. Class politics and popular mobilization remain the only hope to combat the right-wing.
The lack of the abovementioned factors is most evident in Europe, where the EU, an imperialist pole run by European financial capital through a consensus of the European bourgeoisie, is in complete disarray. Ironically, it has become the prime enemy of a large section of both the austerity-stricken European working class and the crony capitalists who have as their goal monopolization, and want to avoid sharing profits even with fellow capitalists.
The right-wing wave in the continent peaked this year. In Britain, Boris Johnson and his anti-worker Brexit seems to have triumphed. In Greece, Alexis Tsipras – who betrayed the aspirations of the Greek working class – lost to the conservatives. Neo-fascists and Francoists have emerged and consolidated under Matteo Salvini’s League in Italy and the Vox party in Spain respectively, riding on a vicious campaign founded on anti-immigrant propaganda and hyper-nationalism. High-profile political reconfigurations like the Five Star- Democratic Party (M5S – PD) coalition in Italy, and the PSOE-Podemos alliance in Spain have not been successful in resisting this trend. In France, the rise of the French right-wing – as represented by the National Rally – has lead to fears of another opportunity for Emmanuel Macron or a new avatar. The French working class seems to be the only force defiantly proclaiming through its mobilizations: “Out with all of them.”
Even Germany, considered the bedrock of the EU project, has witnessed the rise of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), yet again riding on an anti-immigrant and hyper-nationalist campaign.
A united opposition victory in Budapest has also not done much to restrain the policies of the far-right leader, Viktor Orban, in Hungary. Many of these opposition parties are considered equally treacherous and anti-worker. In such a scenario, only working class unity and class opposition remain an effective remedy for resistance to Orban’s racist regime which has been enacting the infamous slave laws.
The Eurosceptic and conservative Polish Law & Justice party (PiS) also continued its winning streak this year, running a textbook right-wing campaign. But a glimmer of hope persists as the Polish Left regained its presence in the national parliament, and the year ended with massive protests against PiS’ initiatives to subjugate the Polish judiciary.
The far-right has gained and fortified political power in several of the post-Soviet European republics as well, riding on Russophobia and anti-communism. The government in Ukraine becomes more fascist day by day, mainstreaming the ultra-right fringe in the country and repressing the communist and leftist parties and their publications. The region has succumbed to imperialist pressure, with the introduction of decommunization laws, the banning of communist parties and demolition of Soviet monuments. In September 2019, the Euro parliament itself passed a resolution equating communism with fascism and called for the erasure of the monuments glorifying it. In all of this, the feats of the Soviet Red Army in the liberation of Eastern Europe from the Nazis remain ignored or wiped out.
The crisis inflicted by the EU policies, rampant militarization promoted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), along with the failed promises on EU integration, remain major factors for the rise and consolidation of the far-right in the Balkans and several other east European states.
In India, the common people face an unprecedented twin assault from crony capitalism and a divisive religious-based politics. The right-wing BJP government, propelled by a religious Hindu supremacist ideology, has been pushing its divisive tactics while permitting the the takeover of the country by a handful of corporates. The recent controversial initiatives of the Indian government, including the anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the proposal for a National Register of Citizens (NRC), have drawn millions out on to the streets in protest across the country despite a massive crackdown by the state.
The crisis wrought by the War on Terror in Afghanistan, along with the imperialist attempts to destabilize the regimes in Iraq and Syria, continue to affect the lives of peace-loving common people across West Asia. Yemen has been devastated by Saudi state terror, with the overt support of Western powers. Meanwhile, even though Benjamin Netanyahu could not win the Israeli elections this year, the apartheid state has escalated its relentless persecution of Palestinians through further encroachments and genocide, with encouragement from US president Donald Trump. Turkey also continues its anti-Kurdish purge in its eastern border, but a united opposition has managed to deliver some mighty blows to Erdogan in the recently held elections. In the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte continues the militarization of the countryside, repressing the peasantry and the working class on the pretext of quelling militant communism and the drug mafia. Hate crimes have also risen in Australia and lslamophobia has raised its ugly head in New Zealand too, as reflected by the bloody shoot-out in a Christchurch mosque on March 15.
The holes in the politics of the right-wing are nowhere as apparent as in Africa. Imperialist interventions in the pursuit of natural resources and strategic dominance in West Asia and Africa caused the disastrous wars in Syria and Libya. Millions have become refugees and now wait for their turn to either die while crossing the Mediterranean, or rot in the miserable refugee camps located on European islands in order to prevent their entry into the mainland. Meanwhile, the European right-wing polarizes the workers in their respective countries by raising the bogey of ‘invasions by these migrants.’
The structural crisis of capitalism is here and everywhere. The far-right is rising to defend the capitalist system. At this point, the working class has the task of strengthening and deepening democracy, building alliances and developing strategies to counter these phenomena. The lessons of Russia, China, Cuba and Vietnam and the experiences of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and many others offer hope and reaffirm one irrefutable truth: the working class has no option and no higher calling but to fight on.