In the wake of the election of Donald Trump to the south of the colonial border, there has been a blooming of discussion on fascism and the necessity for anti-fascist organizing amongst various left-wing streams of thought: anarchists, marxists, anti-racists, as well as others. This has only increased in the wake of his inauguration, the subsequent series of worrying (though unsurprising) executive orders that he has issued since taking the office, and the resistance that has flourished against them.
Whether or not Trump himself is a fascist is a question that is up for debate. It is also arguable whether certain key political figures within his inner circle, such as Steve Bannon, also represent fascism, or at the very least, para-fascist. Undeniable though is that Trump and his closest advisers are right-wing national-populists, which in the context of the northern bloc of settler colonialism is, invariably, inseparable from white nationalism.
What is undeniable is that a number of explicitly white nationalist organizations, theorists and influencers have been highly motivated and emboldened by Trump and his broad popular support amongst american settlers, across gender and class lines, who perceive america as having been betrayed and dirtied by immigrants, “minorities,” queer, trans and gender non-conforming people, feminists and a neoliberal capitalism that has sent industrial jobs overseas. Driven by these broad feelings of white ressentiment, and thirsting for a new frontier, these prophets of naked and proud white power, such as Richard Spencer, rallied to Trump’s campaign, and now presidency. Whether they will continue to stay in Trump’s corner though is yet to be seen.
Additionally, as I write this from canada it would be foolhardy to believe that this country is hermetically sealed from what has been going on south of the border. Prominent figures in the race to replace Stephen Harper as the leader of the federal Conservative Party have sought to emulate Trump’s rhetoric, and have even openly called for bringing his message here. Do not forget that before Trump’s executive orders barring immigration from seven Muslim majority countries and authorizing the building of a wall on Mexican border, the late Harper administration passed the nakedly Islamophobic Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act, as well as the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015 (Bill C-51) and the Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act (Bill C-24), two laws which have respectively strengthened the already existing canadian surveillance state and allowed for the stripping of canadian citizenship from dual citizens and those with the ability to obtain dual citizenship. None of these are issues that been positively acted upon by the current Liberal Party government of Justin Trudeau.
Most strikingly, and tragically, of course, is the recent shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec City. This event, which cost six lives, was carried out by a french-speaking settler who openly espoused support for the right-wing national-populism and Islamophobic politics of Trump, as well as Marine Le Pen in France. Many fear that acts such as this could be the tip of the iceberg, rather than some sort of isolated lone-wolf type incident.
In general, while the emergence of the north american far-right goes back further than Trump, and was certainly emboldened by the election of Barack Obama as the first non-white person to the office of the president, Trump’s campaign and subsequent electoral victory has undeniably led to a marked acceleration of the movement. For the time being, naked white nationalists feel that they now have one of their own in the White(st) House, or, at the very least, someone who will lend them their ear when they come calling and who’s movement they can springboard off of in order to further build their own.
I also know and want to recognize, that many people are scared as well of the current situation. As I noted in my commentary on the Trump election, my mother called me at nearly 3 in the morning to tell me that she felt like she was going to throw up. Similarly, my younger brother told me that he felt as though he may have to leave his job because of the smothering atmosphere of Trumpian white nationalism in his workplace. Since the election I have read what seems like daily updates of the fear, depression and rage felt by many of my fellow Indigenous scholars, and many, many non-scholars, as Trump has re-activated pipeline deals, ordered the construction of a border wall to keep out our relatives from south of the Rio Grande, and hung a painting of perhaps america’s most prolific Indian killing president, Andrew Jackson, in the Oval Office. The fears and worries being experienced and expressed by family, friends, colleagues and comrades across Turtle Island are palpable, and it would be cold, as well as disingenuous, for me to not give space and voice to those feelings.
Bracketing off some of these issues though, what I want to do here is to ask a basic question: what is fascism? And, more particular to what I want to say here, what does fascism mean to Indigenous people in light of the particular conditions of settler colonialism? Is it even a useful analytic category for us in light of existent social conditions, technologies of governance and patterns of power? And, finally, what does anti-fascist struggle mean, or how should it be re-thought, in light of the struggle for decolonization?
So what is fascism then? Open any left-wing tome and you are bound to come across one of two definitions. The first, and perhaps more common these days, views fascism as some form of particularly virulent authoritarian nationalism. Generally they attach fascism to manifestations of aggressive racism, reactionary and conservative traditionalism, anti-liberalism and anti-communism, as well as expansionist and revanchist approaches to foreign policy as part of a general movement towards the seizure of absolute political power, the elimination of opposition and the creation of a regulated economic structure to transform social relations within a modern, self-determined culture. Other essential features include a political aesthetic of romantic symbolism, mass mobilization, a positive view of violence, and promotion of masculinity, youth and charismatic leadership (Griffin and Feldman, 2004). The general historical examples of fascism, without paying much heed to unevenness between them, are the Italy of Mussolini and his Fascist Party and, of course, the National Socialist movement that seized political control of Germany in the early 1930s. Additionally they may look to Franco’s Spain, the clerical fascism of Romania under the Iron Guard and Ion Antonescu, or the various governments of Hungary in the 1930s and during the second world war.
To the left of this essentially liberal-historical, though not entirely unhelpful, definition of fascism is that which is taken up by the majority of the revolutionary anti-capitalist movement, primarily by marxists, though also by some class-struggle anarchists as well. This particular definition traces itself back to the Bulgarian communist and General Secretary of the Communist International Georgi Dimitrov. Dimitrov’s famous description of fascism was of it as “the open terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic and most imperialist elements of finance capital” (1935). While there is more that can be said about this particular formulation of fascism, its pithy nature most certainly does have a certain political appeal to it. However it also clearly lacks the degree of specificity that one might consider necessary to make it actually helpful.
Reflecting on this lack of specificity within Dimitrov’s formulation of fascism, others have worked to delved deeper into aspects of the fascist experience to flesh it out further and to attempt to deliver a genuinely helpful analytic. In particular, political economist Zak Cope (2015), in his book Divided World Divided Class: Global Political Economy and the Stratification of Labour Under Capitalism, sums up the attempts to give more depth to the Dimitrovian analysis of fascism, and here it is worth quoting him at length. He says:
Fascism is the attempt by the imperialist bourgeoisie to solidify its rule on the basis of popular middle-class support for counter-revolutionary dictatorship. Ideologically fascism is the relative admixture of authoritarianism, racism, militarism and pseudo-socialism necessary to make this bid successful. In the first place, authoritarianism justifies right-wing dictatorship aimed at robbing and repressing any and all actual or potential opponents of imperialist rule. Secondly, racism or extreme national chauvinism provides fascist rule with a pseudo-democratic facade, promising to level all distinctions of rank and class via national aggrandisement. Thirdly, militarism allows the fascist movement both to recruit déclassé ex-military and paramilitary elements to its cause and to prepare the popular conscience for the inevitable aggressive war. Finally, social-fascism offers higher wages and living standards to the national workforce at the expense of foreign and colonised workers. As such, denunciations of “unproductive” and “usurers” capital, of “bourgeois” nations (that is, the dominant imperialist nations) and of the workers’ betrayal by reformist “socialism” are part and parcel of the fascist appeal (294).
As Cope further notes, this summation is not out of line with the pre-Dimitrov (and, also, pre-Hitlerian) discussion of fascism in the Programme of the Communist International, which noted that “[T]he combination of Social Democracy, corruption and active white terror, in conjunction with extreme imperialist aggression in the sphere of foreign politics, are the characteristic features of Fascism” (1929). However, as with most of the contemporary left, Cope essentially remains within the general contours of Dimitrov’s work, holding fascism to be an “exceptional form of the bourgeois state” (2015: 294).
This particular definition of fascism is in many ways still is the definitive, go-to, definition amongst marxists and many anarchists. However, even in the move to expand upon it, it is in many striking ways woefully insufficient.
In particular the traditional COMINTERN definition of fascism, while placing it in a relationship with capitalism, understates, if not outright ignores, the manner in which fascist movements are often actually oppositional to capitalism, or at least certain manifestations or elements of it. Several more recent attempts to think through the question of fascism have attempted to more fully flesh this out, against the inherited dogma of the left that sees the deployment of revolutionary or left-wing imagery and language by fascists as a smoke-screen to deceive the masses of working class people. Of particular note a the theoretical stream of thought inaugurated by Don Hammerquist’s work of the question in his article Fascism & Anti-Fascism. Here Hammerquist, himself an autonomist marxist, rejects the traditional, primarily marxist-leninist, Dimitri-derived view of fascism as simply a tool for big business. Hammequist states that:
In opposition to this position [NB: the Dimitrov position], I think that fascism has the potential to become a mass movement with a substantial and genuine element of revolutionary anti-capitalism. Nothing but mistakes will result from treating it as “bad” capitalism—as, in the language of the Comintern (2002: 10).
Centrally Hammerquist sees the danger in a new fascism that is more independent than the classical “euro-fascism” of the 1920s, 30s and 40s, and, seemingly in contradiction with broad left opinion, more oppositional to capitalism. For Hammerquist fascism is not some blunt instrument to be used used as a prop for industrial capitalism but is, rather, a whole new form of barbarism, one that quite disconcertingly comes with mass support. Perhaps most importantly Hammerquist emphasizes the degree to which fascism has its own independent political life, and as such, while it can be influenced by the bourgeoisie, it is ultimately independent of it. For him, fascism is a form of populist right-wing revolution (Hammerquist, 2002).
Agreeing with Hammerquist in broad strokes, while also putting forth criticisms and contributions, J. Sakai calls “disastrous” the old “1920s European belief that fascism was just ‘a tool of the ruling class'” (2002: 33). Sakai also emphasizes the class composition of fascist movements, using as his primary case study the German national socialist movement, noting them as primarily formed by men of lower middle class and declassed backgrounds (2002: 34). Sakai has also made interesting contributions to the role of ecological thought, in particular blood & soil doctrine, to fascist, in particular national socialist, thinking (2007).
Attempting to synthesize this trend of theorization, Matthew Lyons in his article Two Ways of Looking at Fascism gives the following provisional definition:
Fascism is a revolutionary form of right-wing populism, inspired by a totalitarian vision of collective rebirth, that challenges capitalist political and cultural power while promoting economic and social hierarchy (2008).
In his recent book Insurgent Supremacists: The U.S. Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire Lyons builds on this definition, as well previous theorists such as Hammerquist and Sakai. In this work he moves away from the label of fascist to broaden the scope of the discussion, and to think of the far right as a disparate array of forces, which can sometimes find themselves in coalition with one another, but which do not necessarily share the same constellation of goals. What is essential is the question of supremacy. On this he says:
An imprecise working definition (not for all times and places, but for the United States today), the ‘far right’ is use here to mean political forces that a) regard human inequality as natural, inevitable, or desirable and b) reject the legitimacy of the established political system. This definition cuts across standard ideological divisions. It includes insurgent factions among both white supremacists (whose supremacist vision centers on race) and Christian rightsts (who advocate social and political hierarchy based on gender and religion, among other factors). It also includes many Patriot movement activists, who may or may not advocate racial or religious oppression, but who champion unregulated capitalism and the economic inequality it produces (2018: ii-iii).
What becomes key here is the distinction between what Lyons refers to as rightists or supremacists who are system-loyal and those who represent an insurgent political commitment. Again he notes:
[T]he definition excludes system-loyal white supremacists, Christian rightists and Patriot activists, as well as other rightists who want to roll back liberal reforms but leave the basic state apparatus in place (iii).
By shifting of the resolution with which we see the phenomenon of the far-right to include those forces that might not be recognized as traditionally fascist, we can begin to see what itself lies beneath the fascist opposition to capitalism (genuine or not). The seed underneath this thawing snow is an insurgent political commitment to the overturning of the current social order, often by way of violence, and the institution of a new configuration of power in its place. Hearkening back to my initial comments in the introduction to this article, this line of thinking from Lyons also allows us to bring into clearer focus the politics of the Trump regime and its canadian interlocutors. Here, despite his commitment to american civic nationalism—which, as already noted, in the context of the american settler colony is by definition white nationalism—Trump does not represent an insurgent rightist political programme or praxis. Quite to the contrary, Trump is the definition of a bombastic, but still system-loyal rightist. His electoral promise to “drain the swamp” was a plan to deal with perceptions of institutional corruption that were causing the system to fail the average american settler, not to smash it into sand and configure something else a new.
Hammerquist, Sakai and Lyons’s writings on the question of fascism provide a most interesting, and, I would argue, incredibly important avenue of theory as we consider, discuss and work to combat the growth of fascist movements, especially in their pointing towards the fact that fascist movements come to the fore on a wave of mass support and espouse an insurgent politics that does not simply seek to defend the current social order and the bourgeois class, but to destroy it. However theirs is a perspective that nevertheless remains a minority view within the left, most likely, in my opinion, to the left’s own peril. However, their work to re-theorize the question of fascism and the far-right does, and should, encourage us to take aim at other deficiencies within the traditional COMINTERN perspective, still deployed today by the majority of marxist-leninists, maoists, trotskyists, anarchists and others.
Colonial Violence Turned Inwards
Moving beyond the re-theorizations offered by Hammerquist, Sakai and Lyons, for many, both inside and outside of the northern bloc of settler colonialism, the traditionalist formulations and definitions of fascism are ultimately insufficient for a host of other, equally important reasons. In this regard however, in his own reading of fascism, Cope does open up a window onto what I propose is the true heart of fascism. He says: “Geographically speaking, on its own soil fascism is imperialist repression turned inward” (294). This is an aspect of fascism which I believe is essentially missing from all other attempts to give definition to the pheneomenon, from the liberal-historical to Dimitrov, to Hammequist, Sakai and Lyons, from both the pithy and the detailed, and whose central importance cannot possibly be overstated. In essence, following this line of reasoning, we can say that fascism is when the violence that the colonialist-imperialist nations have visited upon the world over the course of the development of the modern/colonial/capitalist world-system comes back home to visit.
This direct lineal connection from colonial violence to fascism was beautifully, if disturbingly, described by Aimé Césaire in his Discourse on Colonialism (1972), saying:
[W]e must show that each time a head is cut off or an eye put out in Vietnam and in France they accept the fact…each time a Madagascan is tortured and in France and they accept the fact, civilization acquires another dead weight, a universal regression takes place, a gangrene sets in, a center of infection begins to spread; and that at the end of all these treaties that have been violated, all these lies that have been propagated, all these punitive expeditions that have been tolerated, all these prisoners who have been tied up and “interrogated, all these patriots who have been tortured, at the end of all the racial pride that has been encouraged, all the boastfulness that has been displayed, a poison has been instilled into the veins of Europe and, slowly but surely, the continent proceeds toward savagery (13).
Regarding the shock of fascism’s recapitulation of colonial violence arriving on the shores of the homeland Césaire adds:
People are surprised, they become indignant. They say: “How strange! But never mind-it’s Nazism, it will, pass!” And they wait, and they hope; and they hide the truth from themselves, that it is barbarism, but the supreme barbarism, the crowning barbarism that sums up all the daily barbarisms; that it is Nazism, yes, but that before they were its victims, they were its accomplices; that they tolerated that Nazism before it was inflicted on them, that they absolved it, shut their eyes to it, legitimized it, because, until then, it had been applied only to non-European peoples; that they have cultivated that Nazism, that they are responsible for it, and that before engulfing the whole of Western, Christian civilization in its reddened waters, it oozes, seeps, and trickles from every crack (14).
So this brings me back to my secondary question, what does fascism mean to the Indigenous person? To the colonized? In particular, how can we read this as Cope adds that fascism “whilst on foreign soil” is “imperialist repression employed by comprador autocracies” (2014: 294) or when Hammerquist and Sakai discuss the globalization of fascism (2002; 2002)? To ask the question more precisely, what does it mean for an analysis of fascism when being on “foreign soil” is also being in its “own soil?” In other words, what, if anything, can fascism mean to those of us trapped within the belly of a violent settler colonial beast?
For an anti-fascist theory and praxis then to carry any kind of meaningful weight it must contend with the fact of settler colonialism and its ongoing, central structuring of the entire symbolic, social and political orders of the northern bloc. Anything else threatens to become a repetitive loop, unable to break through to the actual core of fascism.
The Terrain Below Fascism
Building on this recognition of fascism as colonial violence turned inwards, we are immediately confronted with the truth that the terrain for even the possibility of the development of a domestic fascist movement within the spatial coordinates of the northern bloc is a terrain—in terms of both the literal material meaning of the land, as well as less direct meanings of the psychic, political, social, cultural, ideological and economic fields—is a terrain already soaked in blood. In particular it is a terrain that is already soaked in the blood of Native and Black Peoples.
In the case of the northern bloc of settler colonialism, the sense of exteriority inherent in Césaire’s description of the perfection of what would become fascist oppression within the deployment of colonial violence overseas becomes interior. While for Césaire and Cope the violence of fascism is brought home from the distant colonies of the metropolitan powers, in the settler colonial context this violence is one that was perfected within the exceptional state of the expansion of the frontier, the clearing and civilizing of Indigenous People to make the land ripe for settlement, and the carceral continuum that has marked the Black experience on this land from chattel slavery to the modern hyperghetto.
Thus, before one can even begin a discussion of fascism (or even capitalism for that matter[i]), and the possibility of its emergence on this land, it is important to recognize that fascism in the northern bloc can only occur in a context always-already defined by two fundamental axes: Native elimination and antiblack violence. These two axes, while being somewhat incommensurable with one another, also overlap, and of course also intersect with the general parasitism of the imperialist countries upon the Third World and other colonized peoples worldwide. Broadly we can say though that both the psychic and material life of white settler colonial society is sutured together by anti-Native and antiblack solidarity and violence.
Settler Colonialism & Indigenous Genocide
The united states and canada are a settler colonial estate. As noted above, this means that one of the principal features that distinguishes the settler colonialism of the northern bloc (as well as the australasian and israeli forms) from more traditionally theorized metropolitan, or franchise, colonialism is the fundamental drive towards the elimination of Native peoples (Veracini, 2010; Wolfe, 2006). This is what the late theorist of settler colonialism Patrick Wolfe referred to the logic of elimination when he described settler colonialism as an inclusive land-centred project that mobilizes a diverse assemblage of agencies with a programme of destroying Native nations in order that they may be replaced (2006). Indeed for there to even be a canada or a united states of america Native People must disappear in order for non-Native settlers to claim rightful ownership and title over the continent. Further the logic of elimination exists in a dialectic with an extensive project of settler self-indigenization. While this process is most stark in regions such as Appalachia and Quebec (Pearson, 2013) it is pervasive across the continent.
Additionally, while much of these processes have taken place juridically, and are daily reinforced within the symbolic coding of the civil society of the white settler nation, these processes are, and always have been, drenched in literal Native blood. To define Native life under the existence of settler colonialism is to see it defined through the multiple, converging “vectors of death” arrayed against us, and our resistance to them (Churchill, 2001). All of these processes can be summed up in what Nicolas Juarez refers to as the grammars of suffering of Native life: clearing and civilization (2014). The former are those processes which not only destroy Native bodies and lives in the meat grinder of white invasion, but also evacuate Native sovereignty, not only from the spatial coordinates of the continent, but from also notions of linear, settler temporality as well. The Native is made into feral, savage flesh who is not only made non-sovereign at the moment of contact, but who, within the ontological ordering the settler world, was never sovereign, and who has no possibility of ever being sovereign. The latter is what Juarez describes as the processes designed to “the process of extracting the savageness from the Savage,” which, in tripartite fashion:
[T]ransposes indigeneity from the Red body onto the Settler, commodifies the ontological resistance to whiteness found in indigenous lifeways to the point of no longer having any resistance to the ravishing of capitalist valuation and deracinates the Savage to the point of social death. A tri-operative process, the grammar of civilization hollows out the Indian, mines any cultural accouchements and values, and places them within the prerogative and definitions of value of the Settler (2014).
Additionally, while the violences of settler colonialism are structural and ontological, it is also enacted in a quotidian fashion by the settler population itself. As Wolfe noted, there is, from the Indigenous perspective, a fundamental inability to separate the individual settler from the settler state, with the former being the latter’s principal agent of expansion (2016).
Antiblack Violence and the Continued Inheritance of Enslaveability
Along with the clearing of the continent of Indigenous Peoples, within the racial discourses of the northern bloc, as thinkers as diverse as Sora Han (2002), Jared Sexton (2008) and Angela Harris (2000) have noted, Blackness is equated with an inherent (and inheritable) status of enslaveability and criminality, and is marked for permanent exclusion from the social fold. While, as sociologist Loïc Wacquant has pointed out, the particular manifestations of this process have evolved over time—from chattel slavery, to Jim Crow, to the ghetto to the modern hyperghetto with its accompanying carceral continuum (the ghetto to prison to ghetto circuit)—the underlying logic has remained the same for the past several centuries (2010; 2002).
Under this regime the Black body itself becomes a site of accumulation, nothing more than fungible property, which can then be subjected to gratuitous violence; that is, violence without the requirement of any previous transgression or reason within the social order. This is what Sexton, Frank B. Wilderson, III (2010) and other related theorists mean when they note that the grammars of suffering for Black life are accumulation and fungibility. The enduring legacy of the project to build an antiblack world (Gordon, 1995) is the direct line from enslaveability through lynching, extrajudicial executions of Black men, modern hyperincarceration and the criminalization of Blackness. All of this is enforced and made allowable by continuous, gratuitous antiblack violence.
What is Fascism then to Native and Black People?
So what then does fascism mean to us, the colonized, the Native and Black Peoples of this land, from whom it was stolen and who were stolen to work it? What does it mean for us if government are seized by a movement of fascists? What does it mean to us if Trump system-loyal right-wing national-populist, who, while not himself representing the kind of insurgent supremacist politics of a genuine fascist, still facilitates the rise and the existence of movements, theorists, organizers and influences who do espouse that commitment?
To ask this question more specifically, what does the potential rise of fascism in the northern bloc of settler colonialism mean to Native and Black peoples who have suffered, and who continue to suffer, the hells of genocide, slavery, land theft, convict leasing, forced marches, Jim Crow, popular lynchings, public police murders, corralling and containment in reservations and ghettos, mass incarceration numbering in the millions, residential schools, economic quarantine and military occupation of our communities? What does fascist violence mean to us as peoples who already face structural processes that seek to drive us to alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, mental illness and abject poverty, and which, in collusion with the more blatant aspects of our colonial oppression, seek to wipe out Native and Black Bodies?
What does fascist violence mean to us when we already live under such states identified by Jodi Byrd as “unlivable, ungrievable conditions within the state-sponsored economies of slow death and letting die” (2011: 38). Thus it may seem that to equate our current status with fascism is erroneous, if not outright outrageous, given what our peoples have already experienced, and what we continue to experience on a daily basis.
However, with that said, we should not ignore the potential for violence in excess of standard settler colonial operating techniques of governance that the modern fascist movement within the northern bloc holds. This is seen most starkly in the Quebec City mosque shootings. While the suspect, Alexandre Bissonnette, appears to have acted alone, we must not forget that this is a city where the local Soldiers of Odin chapter has stated that is wishes to launch patrols of Islamic neighbourhoods. In general we can say that, as noted by Stephen Pearson (2017), in excess of the right-wing national-populism of Trump and his canadian interlocutors, these forces, whether they explicitly engage in the kind of German nazi fetishism associated with such individuals and organizations Andrew Anglin of The Daily Stormer or the National Socialist Movement, something which many people continue to stereotype as the most publicly visible mark of fascism, they all thirst for a new frontier, for recolonization, for territories, for a white homeland. In other words, they thirst for the fulfilment of the settler dream—which is a project, it is important to note, they think has failed—to be dreamt anew
And in this we also return to distinction between a genuine fascist movement, which is a movement of insurgent rightists, and the system-loyal right-wing national-populism of the Trump presidency. While Trump drove home the slogan “make America great again,” it was not fundamentally premised on the idea that the american project had failed. The modern fascist movement of the northern bloc however embraces a politic that embodies a love for what america “might have been, if only.” In this sense it is a rhetoric and politic different from that of the Trump presidency (or, again, its canadian cognates) not only in form, but also in essence. Indeed, we must recognize that it exceeds the standard settler colonial project of settler self-Indigenization (though, of course, they engage in this as well) by way of a complete embrace of the settler self, including all its horrors. It is a proclamation of reassertion: white power naked and with no smiling lies. It is white power that is not only unashamed, but proud (Pearson, 2017).
Ultimately, however, this issue does fold back in on itself, because of the fact of the foundational anti-Native and antiblack violence of the political project that created and sustains the northern bloc of settler colonialism. Such violence is ever omnipresent. The basal liberalism of settler colonial political life and civil society has always articulated a war over life and death with two fundamental aims: the elimination and dispossession of Native peoples and the subjugation and violent exclusion of Black peoples. In this regard, liberalism and fascism within the contours of the northern bloc can be properly placed on the same ethico-political continuum, one that is rooted in Native and Black death.
In this, the fires of foundational Native and Black death, of the fact of ongoing invasion and settler colonialism, the final inadequcies of the Dimitrovian formulation of fascism are exposed and burdned away.
And so here we return again to the question of colonial violence in the politic of fascism, because from the perspective of colonized life, whether the governing political logic of the colonial state is liberal or fascist, the fundamental warfare remains in place. The principal threat then of fascism to colonized peoples is not that we would move from a state of having not been subjected to violence from every possible angle to one where we would, but rather that the pacing of the eliminative and accumulative logics of settler colonialism would be accelerated to their fullest possible potential.
This means that in the final analysis the question being posed to Native and Black peoples by our erstwhile white left allies, who right now are sounding the anti-fascist alarm, is an impossible choice between non-fascist, nominally “democratic” colonialism, and fascist colonialism. Not only is this an impossible choice, but it is also, as I have sought to show, a false one, because what is fascism in the face of gruelling colonial violence without end? At best the choice lies between a slow (“democratic”) and a fast (fascist) colonialism, in which the latter would most certainly accelerate the northern bloc’s underlying anti-Native and antiblack logics.
Even the placing of anti-fascist theory and praxis within an explicitly communist perspective is unable to, in itself, offer us shelter or solution. This is because Native and Black ghosts, both living and dead, haunt the possibilities of socialism well. As I have sought to demonstrate elsewhere (2016), a socialism, whether marxist or anarchist, that does not, at the deepest possible level, engage with and seek to combat the fact of settler colonialism can only result in its own reconfiguration of the arrangements of settler power into a new form, nominally in the hands of the working class. The possibility of a newly socialized dispensation of settler colonialism could only be described as national socialism pure and simple.
Our ghosts cry out for something different. Thus, we cannot choose between “democratic” colonialism, even a socialist one, and fascist colonialism because the ultimate problem is the same: colonialism.
What is to be Done?
So with all of that said, where does this leave us? How to we tackle the question which still remains: how do we fight fascism? I want to be clear on this because while I have sought here in this article to excavate deep, systemic problems within general left-wing theory and praxis around the question of fascism, I do not want to understate the importance of continuing the struggle against fascism, from university to the workplace, and from the internet to the streets.
For myself the answer is much the same as my answer to what we must do to fight capitalism (2016), and in this regard it is really quite simple: anti-fascism without decolonization, genuine decolonization, is meaningless—if you want to fight fascism, you have to decolonize. This is a basic truth that I believe should, and indeed must, be grasped by all people claiming revolutionary credentials. We must have the power to decide our own fate, and we must be independent of any need to rely on the white ruling class, the modern/colonial/capitalist state and its institutions of civil society. Perhaps the most basic way to say this is to say that our goal must be Native and Black liberation.
Additionally, as we move towards this goal, we must resist something that has become traditional for the white left when it comes to colonized peoples, which is to attempt to set the agenda for our liberation. A principal effect of this imperialist and opportunist practice on the part of the white left is to disorient our peoples, turn us away from the struggle against the forces and structures of colonialization, and to set as the common programme for all the needs of the colonizer, over and above the needs of the colonized (Kesīqnaeh, 2016).
But what does Decolonization look like? What does Native and Black liberation look like? The overarching goal of course is the total overturning of the modern/colonial/capitalist state and the end of the northern bloc of settler colonialism—this includes not only any potential u.s. and canadian reconfiguration of power along lines of fascism, but also the fiction of the “democratic republic,” or indeed whatever form the colonial state may take up in imposing its regime rule over our oppressed peoples. In particular a programme of decolonization was broken down into three succinct aspects by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang (2012), to which I have made a few extensions and expansions of my own. Though not comprehensive, it gives us a point of opening. It is as follows:
- The repatriation of land to sovereign Native nations; that is, all of the land, not just symbolically and without compensation for the settler population who stole it and who’s continued occupation has been to ensure that it remains stolen;
- The abolition of slavery in its contemporary forms, including the carceral continuum of antiblackness, reparations to African people for kidnapping and stolen labour and the right to control their own communities free of military occupation;
- The dismantling of the imperialist metropole, and an end to the parasitism of the imperialist nations upon the bodies of the colonized peoples of the Third World.
These goals are also summed up in part by Frank B. Wilderson, III who asks, and then answers:
What are the foundational questions of the ethico-political? Why are these questions so scandalous that they are rarely posed politically, intellectually, and cinematically—unless they are posed obliquely and unconsciously, as if by accident? Give Turtle Island back to the “Savage.” Give life itself back to the Slave. Two Simple sentences, fourteen simple words, and the structure of U.S. (and perhaps global) antagonisms would be dismantled (2010: 2-3)
To put it another way, and to echo the revolutionary anti-colonial leader of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde Amílcar Cabral (1972), while we cannot be sure that the defeat of fascism (or capitalism) alone will be enough to bring about the decolonization of Turtle Island, we can be sure that the defeat of colonialism on this land will be the final defeat of even the possibility of fascism, much less fascism itself.
Finally, all of this applies to white people as well, many of whom I know are worried, as I said before, about the possible rise of fascism in the united states and canada. I say to you, my white friends, co-workers and comrades, that the best way for you to guarantee the defeat of fascism is to rise with us, in solidarity with us, and united with our goals for decolonization. Join us in fighting against the parasitic relationship all white people have enjoyed at our expense for 600 years. Work in solidarity to defeat u.s., canadian and european colonialism—in all corners of the world, from Africa, to the Caribbean, to Afghanistan, to Palestine, to Syria, to the South China Sea, to so-called “South America” to Turtle Island—and fascism, along with all the other most vile manifestations of capitalism, will surely fall with it.
A better world awaits all of us.
[i] To be clear, as I have always tried to be on this site, I am not saying that capitalism is not a problem. It most certainly is, and I believe for there to ever be any kind of development of real world wide justice then the capitalist world-system must be torn down and replaced. In this regard, despite ideological growth I retain many of my old marxist principles, commitments and points of analysis.
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