Sunday, 17 January 2010
We are heading towards a global "neo-fascism": The “fate“ of Western Democracy as the overall “fate” for the whole Humankind: In those European countries where Civilization has finally given its most cherished fruits of "civility '," lay virtue"," good education ",... (civility, in short), the post-democratic Police of Oneself has already turned real and taken body; it has been actually incarnated.
In the present article I will intend to look back at the reality that the historical literature of Globalization masks and denies; the real status and future of the Liberal Democracy.
As Marcel Gauchet has pointed out the Western democracies are still very young, and so we somehow, ignore what fruits they will give to us when they attain their complete maturity. We just ignore where they can lead us. What are the aims of the democracies?, what surprises will they bring to us in the future?.
It is not easy to answer such a worrying questions so, as it is already well known, in the past the liberal regimes mixed themselves with Fascism, prepared it, supported it and brought it to rule. ... Is that relationship already (and forever) over?. What is happening nowadays then?.
Recently, Günter Anders stated that "democracy" in Germany was merely a cover for a real "fascism", and the truth is that, faced with such an invective one not always know how to respond. Could it be true?.
The current state of Democracy is pitiful. It has been left without opponent, but it is also said that even without substance ... The lack of enthusiasm of citizenship respect to its alleged "formula for self-government" cannot be concealed any longer: massive electoral abstention, widespread discrediting of the leaders and their cliques, “high tide” of the a-politicism (general refusal and discredit of representative politics). A diffuse political disenchantment that in reality is nothing but actual disaffection to democracy is on the air. As I have already said elsewhere, this resigned and curiously, disappointed acceptance of the demo-liberal system can be interpreted as mere docility of the people to a regime that proclaims itself to be unrivalled and with "no alternative". Everything that Democracy promised (the people's self-government by themselves, transparency in governance, political freedom ,...) has collapsed; And still this is the formula that has triumphed and buried the remaining forms of political organization. Nonetheless, its victory is a bitter one, because it is tempered by the aforementioned ongoing movement of civic desertion, which punishes it with all the signs of an “apathetic consent" and a benevolent "non-participation”.
"Does this mean that democracy was not being kept alive by anything but by the discussion about itself and that, henceforth devoid of opponents, has entered a final clumsy state in which everything in it will be about a kind of “reactive management”, by the day, of its suffered history?“. Gauchet interrogates...
¿Clumsy final stage? It seems to me that it is now when Democracy is beginning to show its true face, to reveal its true intentions; and that only now, dominant, hegemonic, incontestable, with no possibility of legitimize itself by comparison, starting to piss off even to those who most praise it, it will surprise us
with the insignificance of its organism, its body, and the malevolence of its purposes. It has already shown some of its dark side, as a wreck of her small sick soul: It tends to depoliticize the population, scaring the citizens of politics and leaving such activity in the hands of small circles of corrupt and ambitious men, mediocre human beings provided with great cynicism.
So what is the dream of the democracies?. What do they want to achieve over time?. Seeking answers to these is to raise the question of the relationship between "fascism" and "democracy". How is "Fascism" defined from this arena of "democracy" in which it once gave rise to feared and horrendous political monuments?. Is it just its opposite?. Is it something else?. Is it the same thing?.
The History of the ideas has seen three ways to elucidate these questions, three theories of fascism from the perspective of Democracy. The first one among them, conceived within the academic historiography has attempted to present the historical fascism (German, Italian) as a kind of monster unparalleled, a horrifying phenomenon "isolated" that would meet certain very precise, specific causes typical of a time and some countries, some men and some attitudes, which have little or nothing to do with us any more. The game of the economic (crisis, unemployment, famine, ruin of the middle class, etc.). , social (turbulence, conflicts, revolutionary attempts, fear of the powerful men in rule,...), political (spread of some new organizations, sclerosis and vilification of the traditional parties and almost the whole democratic system ...) and ideological circumstances (dissemination of racist , nationalist, xenophobic, totalitarian beliefs etc.) often suffices to depict a local, cut off process, almost like an endemic plague which would have placed two states in the very same antipodes of Democracy. For these historians, including Mommsen for example, “Fascism” is the perfect antithesis of "democracy" and so its historical implementation during the Inter-war period expresses the aftermath of very “particular” processes and circumstances resulting from a combination of concrete factors quite difficult of being repeated again. The Western Democracy, having learned the lesson, will always have to remain alert, vigilant, in order not to be threatened again by totalitarian organizations which, taking advantage of periods of crisis and social unrest, will always try to spread their abhorrent ideas in order to achieve political and sectarian strength ...
This thesis remains dear to politicians and rulers of any kind so it legitimizes Democracy "by contrast" (the monster inhabits beyond, outside of it; It is in the opposite side) and at the same time reassures the population (Auschwitz will never happen again: We have buried in salt its seed). However, it suffers from great inconsistency and maintains some internal issues in the shadow.
Although, once holding the reins of the State apparatus, the fascists proceeded to undermine the liberal regime from within, their previous strengthening, their electoral and political promotion occurred in the respect and observance of the democratic rules -legalization, polls, alliances…- The public actually wanted the fascism and democracy led it to where it was to arrive: the dome of the State ...
Despite of some minor variations, this liberal interpretation of the fascist phenomenon has ended up as part of the official ideology of our present system; and it has, for a long time, been taught almost without any reply in our schools, privileged by the mass media etc.. It has been usually combined with an overvaluation of the role of the leaders (Hitler, Mussolini, thoroughly demonized) and an exaggerated emphasis on the impact of ideology. It also usually clears the whole population, the “average citizens” from the burden of any responsibility. Those men and women who voted and applauded until the end to these parties, who idolized those leaders, and who, such it has been recently testified by Goldhagen- not always wanted to miss the opportunity to participate themselves in the ongoing tortures and murders...
The second interpretation emerged in the Marxist historiography, within the context of an ignited controversy against the liberal versions. From this perspective, which had in Nicos Poulantzas an exceptional supporter and theorist, "representative democracy" and "fascism" should be regarded (expressed in a metaphoric way) as two “playing cards” that the ruling bourgeoisie, the national oligarchies and the social and economic supporters of Capitalism, can put on the table at their convenience. As one was shown, the other one would be hidden under the sleeve, and both of them would be used alternatively according to the most immediate interests. That way, in times of economic boom and social peace, the democratic card serves better to their aspirations, reducing the use of physical repression and hardly arising any "problem of political legitimacy." Nevertheless, in times of social upheaval, under the threat (whether real or imagined) of a revolutionary anti-capitalist process, times of economic crisis, disorder, widespread discontent, vibrant anti-establishment groups or ideologies, and so on, the hegemonic bourgeoisie, the ruling classes that keep control on the state apparatus will resort, in order to safeguard their positions of privilege, to the terrible fascist “playing card” hidden beneath the sleeve so far, and will encourage, fund and sustain a process of fascistization whose aim is to restore the law and order and prevent the capitalist system from further damage or collapse.
From this trend the "fascism" is no longer perceived as a "horror" buried forever in the past; but as an option for the Capital, a mere functional alternative to Democracy, a replaceable monster that can very easily re-visit us. An asset to which the bourgeoisie would never relinquish ... According to this interpretation, certainly less reassuring, "fascism" is not the antithesis of "democracy": it appears rather as its “brother of blood“, its occasional replacement. Leaving aside any "humanist” sentimentality, the worst thing that could be said of fascism is that it serves to the same interests as democracy: where fascism is bad, democracy is evil. So being both regimes the offspring of the capitalist system, their stories will always go hand in hand, hiding one after the other, following one another in a rhythmical fashion...
The third interpretation has emerged in the philosophical and literary fields and it is the least complacent, the most disturbing among them. Just to put it in a brutal fashion: It argues that Fascism though under a new appearance, is the destiny of democracy, its truth and its future, the horizon towards it is making for, its very same displaced and postponed essence. I personally concur with this version ...
Representative democracy leads to a new type of fascism and, as it spreads worldwide as THE ONLY ONE form of political organization in our days, the "neo-fascism" globalize with it as the definitive denouement of mankind. Ironically, the roots of this discourse can be found in the “Dialectic of Enlightenment“, by Adorno and Horkheimer, authors who would not subscribe the subsequent development given to the prospect that their initial work showed. The French Theory (Foucault, in particular), with its appropriation of Nietzsche’s views, is the second largest source. The theoretical and conceptual materials with which to support the unmasking of representative democracy as a liberal genesis of the "neo-fascism" have been mainly provided by these two traditions (School of Frankfort, Genealogical Theory).
Despite whether of their overall differences and their divergent intellectual trajectories, both schools have agreed in pointing out a circumstance whose recognition still sounds disturbing to the mainstream intellectuality, the academic and official knowledge: that the Western liberal democracies are based in the same form of rationality and turning to the same procedures as the Historical Fascisms and the Stalinism (see, in this regard, “Why should we study the power; The question of the subject”, booklet by Michel Foucault). This “identity” of the conceptual pre-assumptions and the leading categories found in the philosophical matrix of the Fascism, Stalinism and Democracy (three versions of the same sort of rationality, three excrements expelled by the bourgeoisie politic ratio), comes from/originates in the fact that our culture has closed ranks around its philosophical roots (anchor point) in the Enlightenment and has developed its political concepts in strict obedience to the logocentric dictates of the Ratio, in the rigorous subjugation to the Modern Project. Once established this background affinity between "fascism" and "democracy", nothing prevents the former from replacing the latter or rather, overlap it, especially when a broad and not restrictive concept of this applies.
Eduardo Subirats can be counted among the contemporary authors who have worked towards the elaboration of a comprehensive concept of fascism. The latter would allow a significant "diversification" in its expressions and would legitimize the idea of a "new kind of fascism" under a different format from the "old" one, but still sharing with this the most important generative features according to the Spanish author. Subirats carries on by stating that the absence of internal resistance (lack of a estimable opposition and critical response which is to say the absolute “docility” of the population) and the expansionism abroad (belligerency, desire for universalization) constitute the two most capital traits which define the "Fascism" as a socio-political phenomenon nowadays. I personally would add a third one: the desire to exterminate the Difference (cultural, psychological, political and economic etc...). These three characteristics link the experiences of the German and Italian "fascism" (known as Historical Fascisms) with the management models of the social space (guidelines for population control, socio-political management policies ) that tend to characterize the present demo-liberal regimes. It could be said therefore that there is a neo-fascism overlapping to a greater or lesser degree the political apparatus of democracy (elections, parliament, political parties, etc.). A neo-fascism from and within the democracies (democratic fascism or demo-fascism). I ignore if it actually is still more to come or if it is wholly installed within our society.
I think that we are on the threshold of this new era, if we have not already entered into it and the least important thing in this discussion is the adequacy or inadequacy of the words I have chosen to appoint it. I could have called it "democratic despotism"; but the term does not mention the expansionism and the repression of the difference. I could have also said "post-democracy", but I do not want to give the impression that I am in sympathy with any intellectual fashion trend (fashion of the "post", "Post-Modern", "Post-Industrial", "Post-History ",... ). The various schools of thought that have sought to distance themselves from the Modern Project, which seek to turn their back on the chain of myths bequeathed to us by the Enlightenment (chain so estimated by all the oligarchies of the Planet), provide elements perspectives and concepts useful in order to establish and develop this idea of post-democracy or demo-fascism. In one of my recent books I have just stick to point this out "bring this to the limelight" and to collect evidence proving that it is not a fantasy.
The reason for me to be interested in this problem is that I believe that the new School of the Demo-Fascism, the symbol and the source of the new times is already starting to rise. Reformation after reformation, the post-democratic new school is showing up little by little and part of the work is about getting done very soon.
I have already alluded to the traits that link "post-democracy" with the broad concept of fascism, which are shared by the experiences of the totalitarian regimes in Germany and Italy. Now I would like to allude to those aspects that distinguish and singularise the former from the latter, nearly turning it into the opposite of the Historical Fascisms.
In the first place, a resounding "lack of enthusiasm" to the liberal regime, the antithesis of that "warmth of the masses" who accompanied the former fascisms can be easily detected. This "lack of enthusiasm" comes in part as a result of the de-politicization of society brought by the disempowering practice of the political liberalism i.e. vote and wait to see what happens and then wait to vote again because nothing has happened. Faced with the re-politicization of citizenship that distinguished the “fascistizide” German and Italy, we have today the growing apolitical attitude shown by those men and women claiming to be democrats only in name, increasingly disappointed with a formula that used to promised them nothing more, nothing less than "political self-determination ". Lack of enthusiasm: disillusionment, disenchantment, apathy...
Secondly, the "demo-fascism" is characterized by a progressive concealment (invisibility, imperceptiveness) of all technologies, coercive mechanisms along with every position of power and authority. Therefore, this emerging regime tends to minimize the physical apparatus of repression, and to rely almost entirely on psychological (symbolic) strategies of domination. The dialectics of the Force must leave its place to the dialectic of Sympathy. This way, the post-democratic repression
frankly does its job very well since, as Arnheim said, in painting as in music "the good work goes unnoticed, It barely hurts our senses“. I am afraid that the post-democratic repression is found among this sort of “masterpieces”: It is actually excellent, for it goes on all the time but remains unperceived, almost unseen. Its core ideal is defined as: "turn every man/woman in a police of him/herself” so as long as certain explicit figures of authority, empirical positions of power still have to be maintained, these will need to become softer, “dulcified“, watered down, diluted and hidden: There we have the “friendly” cops, the “sensitive“ prison guards the "humanitarian" soldiers or “peacekeepers“, the “almost absent” teachers and so on...
In the spaces where relationships of subordination and an uneven distribution of the power quotas still have to be maintained, it will be sought that the dominated people (the victims, the junior) grab the reins/ take charge of their own subjugation and exert as punishers of themselves: students who act as "self-teachers" intervening in every school-related domain, holding opinions about everything within the school dynamics, "energizing" the lessons/lectures, participating in the government of the institution and if necessary, even marking themselves proudly with a fail . In this way, the "object" of the institutional practice will partly assume the traditional powers of the "subject", a portion of its prerogatives and its duties as well, becoming almost the subject and object of this at the same time.
Students playing teachers; Prisoners being their own guards, watchmen for the other inmates; The workers acting as foremen, controlling themselves and their colleagues… Hence, this hybridization and this semi-reversal of the roles, is followed by an occultation of the coactive procedures and a strategic postponement of the use of force ...
Of course, not all the students, workers, prisoners, etc.. , fall into this trap: Harcamone, the honest criminal of Genet who really had deserved prison by murdering children, (unlike those others ending up in "the mansion pain" (Wilde) on the grounds of pathetic reasons, victims of miscarriages of justice, repentant crooks, criminals and even occasional or involuntary delinquents) wants one day enjoy the whim of killing a jailer. At the end he chose well his aim: He does not pick the prototypical sadistic, cruel and inhuman prison guard, but that idealistic young man, full of good intentions, that speaks a lot to the inmates, claims to "understand" their suffering, pass cigarettes to them, criticizes the prison governors and policies and never incurs in gratuitous violence, aggressions or mistreat. Harcamone chooses to murder that jailer through which the penal institution masks its ultimate truth, lies cynically and even aspires to "become bearable" ... Neither the poor, beggars and homeless of “Viridiana” let themselves to be entirely fooled by the half-nun who needed them in order to feel pious, generous, virtuous, and so did not spare undignified and outrageous gestures of an unforgivable sympathy towards them. They even were on the verge of raping or killing her at certain point... Deep poverty is terrible no one can play with it, without risk, to earn the heaven for themselves... ("My deprivation kills," seems to be the message that Maldoror of Isidoro Ducase is trying to tell us after each of his murders). Unfortunately, there are no more killers with the honesty and clarity of Harcamone or poor people with the fortitude necessary to hate the "pious" who come to them to benefit in some way ... Post-democracy blurs the relations of subjugation and exploitation, saving itself the excessive resort to the physical repressive violence that characterized the former fascisms ...
So the "demo-fascism" will be, or rather is already, an order supported by extremely civilized homunculi. Paraphrasing Norbert Elias, men who have internalized, to a high degree, the apparatus of self-repression and have thus get used to endure anything without hardly experiencing any emotion of disgust or rejection. Men and women extremely "manageable" and incapable of hating what is worthy of being hated and love what really deserves to be loved. Men and women incompetent for and horrified by any conflict, inept for rebellion, which have deleted from their vocabulary the word "no" and fade away in a paralysing scepticism, in the most abject conformism and docility. Men and women who have failed to intuit the dangers of the good sense and die their lives capitulation after capitulation. “Withholding, withdrawal, retreat, not only with respect to this world but to all worlds, a mineral serenity, a taste for prettification whether for fear for pleasure or for pain” (Cioran).
Our civilization and culture, in its stage of decline (and, therefore, scepticism and conformism), has provided the post-democracy with the men that it needed to reduce the repressive apparatus of the state. Men moulded for centuries (“what you will never know is how long has been required by the man to produce the man“, warned Gide). Men trained and accustomed to the nauseating technique of monitor, censure, punish, correct, watch and snitch each other in accordance with the expectations of the current social standards.
In those European countries where Civilization has finally given its most cherished fruits of "civility ',"lay virtue"," good education ",... (civility, in short), the post-democratic Police of oneself has already turned real. Indeed it has taken body, been incarnated. I recall with horror those Nordic people, in that phantasmagorical city from the Polar Artic Circle called Alta, who did not cross the street until the traffic light, feeling sorry for them and pity for their absurd wait (there were barely any car passing for the whole day) , gave them the order ashamed.
They also paid for everything, mechanically, (for the newspapers, the drinks and some other articles which, with their corresponding price indicated, appeared here and there without anybody in charge, without locking mechanisms preventing them from being shoplifted or stolen), even though it was so simple to take them “for free” (I did it myself). For somebody like me, who have stolen so many times in my life, and who have always regarded the disobedience as the only moral law, those pictures, taken from an otherwise very real nightmare, already predicted the extinction of the human heart. Soon, it will only be a gap what will simulate beating under the demo-fascist men’s bosom.
Pedro García Olivo